Officially launched in October 2016 at Port Augusta in South Australia after a six-year pilot, it’s the first outpost of Sundrop Farms.
The company wants to make farming more resilient to climate change by using the desert’s plentiful sunshine, as well as piped-in seawater, to produce food in arid environments.
“Our farm grows more than 15,000 tonnes of tomatoes each year,” says CEO Philipp Saumweber. Sundrop’s tomato plants are grown hydroponically, free of soil, in a watery solution fed by nutrient-rich coconut husks. “Intake water is pumped, using sustainable electricity produced by our concentrated solar plant, in a 450mm pipe over 5km to our desalination unit,” Saumweber explains. As seawater is a natural disinfectant, the farm can operate pesticide-free.
Sundrop’s plant cost AUD$200 million to build, including a $100 million investment from private equity firm KKR. In 2016, Sundrop expanded to Portugal and Tennessee in the US, where it’s building farms to meet the needs of local supermarkets.