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Thursday, 21 June 2012
Page: 7544

Mr RAMSEY (Grey) (09:54): Last week I had the great pleasure of visiting a good news story 20 kilometres south of Port Augusta, the establishment by Sundrop Farms of some world-first technology in harvesting seawater and using it to grow horticultural products—tomatoes and capsicums, whatever—inside a greenhouse. I was met by David Pratt, the manager—a young Canadian and a horticulturalist—and Reinier Wolterbeek, a Dutch desalination technician, and they showed me through their project. The desalination process is powered by parabolic trough solar concentrators. The solar troughs concentrate the sun onto an oil pipe and the oil is heated up to some hundreds of degrees. It is then fed to a heat exchanger and it heats water to a temperate of around 170 degrees—water to steam. In turn the hot water heats a condenser. Seawater is sprayed onto the condenser and the seawater evaporates into steam, the steam is harvested and they have distilled water. The distilled water is fed into a 2,000 square metre greenhouse, where the troughs that contain the plants are suspended above the floor of the greenhouse. The plants have their roots in coconut husks—which are imported—and they grow beautiful tomatoes and capsicums, whatever.

Two thousand square metres is not a huge greenhouse. But, interestingly enough, this greenhouse—2,000 square metres or 0.2 hectares—uses just 10,000 litres of water a day. I have a garden at home and believe me this is highly efficient use of water. The excess water drains into troughs and it is recollected. They add high-nutrient fertilisers and have very good growth outcomes. There are plans to expand this facility to 80,000 square metres—eight hectares. That would be an astonishingly large greenhouse. Of course, this is expensive, but the investors are very confident that they have a good outcome. David told me that he well beat the Australian national average for production per hectare last year. He is very confident in his ability to keep growing new crops and being innovative in that space. In a world where we are concerned about food security, Australians are concerned about food security, and land in a place like the south of Port Augusta is flat, available and cheap. There are loads of seawater and we have sun in abundance. This is a novel and great use of solar energy. It is not requiring government assistance. It is a case of the technology actually delivering on time for a purpose project, and I commend them on their effort.