Growing Crops in Saltwater

Earth’s oceans are good for a lot of things. They generate more than half of the oxygen we need to breathe, regulate our climates and provide us with a bounty of fish for sustenance. One thing the ocean’s salty water is not so good at? Watering crops. At least it wasn’t. Startup Red Sea Farms is developing a new technology that uses saltwater to not only irrigate crops, but also help cool growing facilities in an energy efficient manner.

Based in Saudi Arabia, Red Sea Farms is affiliated with King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST). Chris Albrecht spoke with Prof. Mark Tester, Co-Founder and CSO of Red Sea Farms, by video chat this week, and while he was pretty tight lipped about exactly how his company’s technology works, he did share the basic ideas.

In a nutshell, Red Sea Farms is able to either irrigate land crops with saltwater or grow crops hydroponically using a mixture of 90 percent saltwater and 10 percent fresh water. Right now the company is growing tomatoes through a combination of plant selection, breeding and grafting (but not genetically modifying) in such a way that developed root stocks that can grow in saltwater.

The obvious importance of this technology is that areas of the world that are now inhospitable to agriculture because of fresh water access, arable land and temperature could someday produce their own crops with the abundant (and free) sea water.

To be clear, Red Sea Farms isn’t growing tomatoes in the sea. Rather, it is bringing in sea water to either irrigate fields or into a greenhouse facility it has set up in Saudi Arabia. But that saltwater isn’t just growing the tomato plants. Red Sea Farms has also developed a way to use saltwater in its evaporative cooling system. This, plus the use of transparent solar panels at its greenhouses could be used by other growing facilities to reduce their carbon and freshwater footprints when producing food.

Red Sea Farms is already selling tomatoes and cherry tomatoes at markets in Saudi Arabia. As Tester explained, tomatoes grown in saltwater are actually sweeter than normal tomatoes because the plants produce extra sugar to overcome the salt. Additionally, the tomatoes have a slightly thicker skin, which gives them a little extra crunch and extends their shelf life.

While Red Sea Farms currently makes food, it’s an agritech company with a longer term goal to fully develop and productize its technology for licensing out to third parties.

Website Link (Article by Chris Albrecht)

Published by RenSun Lee

Kia ora! Sustainability is at the core of my soul ever since I was a kid. I always strive to finish the food on my plate and live as a minimalist. I love to cut down on waste in order to live sustainably and harmoniously with our planet. This brings me to my passion as a Food Scientist to integrate new technologies into innovative and creative solutions to meet customer demands and market trends and to optimize products and processes for quality, savings and sustainability. To these goals, I have published a Journal on my work on sustainable packaging and patented a new Antimicrobial wash. Nothing is more satisfying than working hard and smart at the workplace and playing hard outside of working hours. I enjoy rejuvenating myself through spending quality time with my two adorable kids and my awesome soul mate and getting close to nature when possible, be it gardening, tramping or going to the beach. I also love to learn about our magnificent universe and how sustainability is working in the grand scheme of things. I strongly believe that Work, Life & Balance is the key to a healthy state of mind, both physically and mentally. I look forward to making a positive difference wherever and whenever I can. Through this Blog, I hope to catalog recent Food Trends and Food Technologies that I come across so that anyone who is interested can have access to it (articles and resources). Please use these resources at your discretion. On top of that, I would also like to share related news and technologies of the future that would help mankind advance towards a Type 1 Civilization. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to share and contribute to the “Resources“. I would like to thank you in advance for dropping by. I sincerely hope that you can benefit from the recent Food Trends and Food Technologies I catalogued. Kind regards | Ngā mihi RenSun Lee

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