Seawater Greenhouse brings agriculture to world's harshest environments

Matt Hickman for Mother Nature Network:  To riff on an old proverbial phrase: When life gives you a hot, punishing climate and nary a drop of fresh water for irrigation, why not make …

OK, there’s literally nothing you can make — or grow, in this particular instance — with those things. Not lemonade, not tomato salad, not a banana and strawberry smoothie. Nada.

However, British theatrical lighting designer-turned-inventor Charlie Paton has devised an agricultural workaround that enables some of the most arid, drought-stricken communities in the world to successfully grow and harvest crops by harnessing the two things that parched coastal regions happen to have in spades: sunshine and saltwater. As a result, residents of fresh water-starved locales like Somaliland, Oman, Abu Dhabi and bone-dry South Australia are finding that they can indeed grow lemons — and make delicious lemonade — along with a variety of other crops that would be otherwise impossible to grow in harsh environments where water insecurity is a pressing issue.

Revolving around a technology first developed and piloted in Spain’s Canary Islands in the early 1990s, Paton’s company, Seawater Greenhouse, specializes in just that: solar-powered greenhouses where crops are grown using saline water, which in normal circumstances is a plant killer (save for salt-filtering mangroves and a few other plants, most of which aren’t fit for human consumption.)

The two-step technology is rather straightforward. "The idea is so simple that it’s rather insulting," Paton tells Wired U.K. in a profile of Seawater Greenhouse’s latest endeavor in Somaliland, an autonomous region of Somalia that's home to 4 million-some residents who have long struggled with crippling drought and famine. "People say, 'If that’s going to work then somebody would have done it before.'" Full Article:

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