A research team from Aston University in the UK is working on solar powered seawater irrigated greenhouses in the desert
Whilst the temperatures in the region chosen for the test reach 40 degrees centigrade, water is scarce and food production is becoming increasingly marginalised. The Horn of Africa has been chosen due to its very difficult conditions where local farmers must significantly increase their yields to survive. In Somalia, only 1.5% of the countries land is cultivated and when it is, the average hectare only produces half a tonne of crops. This compares to 1400 times the tonnage yield within greenhouses.
The quality of food production in greenhouses is generally much higher than in open fields as we can contain and manage the process of farming that much more tightly. The use of water and nutrients specifically are much better controlled.
These amazing greenhouses will pump water from the ocean through the solar power they generate and then put it through a desalination process. The remaining seawater will then be used as a cooling tool that will bring down the air temperatures in these relatively cheap greenhouse structures. The water used for cooling will also add humidity to the air, which will cut down on the levels of plant transpiration. With these efficient structures up and running, even the salt extract from the desalination will be used for cooking and preserving food.
Dr Philip Davies, of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Aston University, said: “I think the project could really make a difference to peoples’ futures in the Horn of Africa, which is very much in need of investments to provide for its growing population. We will be working very closely with our partners in Somaliland to increase our understanding of the local challenges and to make sure our contributions are effective.”
We have a massive global challenge on our hands to improve food production. As a planet, by 2050, we need to up the level of output by 60%. As well as having the challenge of increasing food output, the planet is faced with a fresh water shortage that needs addressing. This technology is seen as one-way big potential gains can be made using land that currently has no use and tackling the fresh water shortage.
This project is part of a £722k investment in the Horn of Africa and it is expected to see demand for such facilities grow rapidly in the face of global shortages.