Growing crops and shrinking deserts applying restorative agriculture with the Seawater Greenhouse
We want to apply restorative agricultural techniques to produce food from unused arid land counteracting desertification, addressing climate adaptation and mitigation, contributing to food security and easing the pressure on scarce water resources; in the process creating opportunities for small farmers and other fragile groups to enhance their own livelihoods.
This is an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable enterprise based on simple technology and basic scientific concepts.
The Seawater Greenhouse team has worked with Universities and commercial partners in the past twenty years. It has piloted four projects demonstrating that it is possible to grow crops in arid regions positioned in the proximity of the sea (many places on earth meet this requirement).
The system evaporates and condenses seawater inside the greenhouses while providing a cooler and humid environment for the plants to grow as well as enough fresh water to irrigate them.
As an additional benefit, the high humidity exhaust air from the greenhouse contributes to stimulating the growth of spontaneous vegetation. The biomass residues from cultivation are used to increase the organic content of the soil making it possible to increase areas biological activity.
We want to open source the concept and are looking for partners to implement projects all over the world, sharing the expertise accumulated so far, furthering its improvement and scaling up its deployment to small farmers as well as main stream stakeholders in the food industry.
Conventional agriculture requires great amounts of water and energy inputs. Farming land is constantly being lost to salinisation (through over-abstraction of ground water) and more farm land is created by deforestation. The Seawater Greenhouse offers an environmentally responsible alternative to these practices.
The Seawater Greenhouse is carbon neutral in its operation and it also has the potential to sequester carbon in the soils it returns to biological productivity.
Why: Rationale for the proposal
This concept offers a route to lessen the impact of agriculture on earth ecosystems and a potential tool to boost or enable reforestation programs.
At a suitable scale, it may be desirable to pump seawater further inland or to let it flow into existing depressions (a program is already envisaged to pipe seawater from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, the Wadi Araba / Arava Valley region all along that conduit could be blossoming with gardens).
How: Feasibility of proposal
Our goal is to establish a R&D centre to continue innovating and to demonstrate this solution to potential stakeholders.
The demonstration centre will need initial seed funding. In the longer term, further activities could be funded by revenues from crop production.
Once the technology has been adapted to the needs and climate conditions of suitable regions, , commercial activities such as the one currently running in Australia can be financed by socially and environmentally friendly investment funds, interested in benefiting the BoP and offering advantageous lending conditions.
Complementary partners would be local and international organizations specialized in agriculture, forests, energy, microfinance, trade or a mixture of these.
Vision of the future
The Sahara was once forested. The changes that have occurred in the past few thousand years have been heavily influenced by human activity through over grazing and sustained deforestation. Reversing the process for this and other deserts is not just possible but essential if we are to feed a growing population.
For further information please visit: www.seawatergreenhouse.com