Tomatoes From Sun And Seawater
Hydroponics is one of the great science-fictional technologies, even though the idea dates from the 1600's, when curious proto-scientists were wondering what elements were essential for plant growth.
Raymond Z. Gallun gives an example with gusto:
"I wanted to show you," Mitch said. "I brought seeds, and these little plastic tubes with holes in them, that you can string around inside a bubb. The weight is next to nothing. Put the seeds in the tubes, and water with plant food in solution. The plants come up through the holes. Hydroponics. Gotta almost do it, if I'm going way out to Mars without much supplies. Maybe, before I get there, I'll have even ripe tomatoes! 'Cause, with sun all the time, the stuff grows like fury, they say. I'll have string beans and onions and flowers, anyhow! Helps keep the air oxygen-fresh, too. Wish I had a few bumble bees! 'Cause now I'll have to pollenate by hand..."
(From The Planet Strappers, read more about hydroponics in space)
And today, from Australia:
(Tomatoes from sun and sea)
On 20 hectares in the South Australian desert, Sundrop Farms—officially launched on Oct. 6—uses a field of 23,000 mirrors to produce energy for electricity and water conversion. Seawater is the sole irrigation source, piped in from the Spencer Gulf five kilometers away. The water is thermally desalinated, nutrients are added to nourish plants, and the greenhouse growing begins. But the farm is not entirely energy independent yet, relying on the grid for up to 15% of its power supply, particularly in winter when the sun is weak.
Smaller pilot plots served as practice runs for the grander endeavor, which has been in the works since 2014 and is 100 times larger than trial versions. The little projects helped Sundrop secure a 10-year contract with Australian retailer, Coles, to supply 15,000 tonnes of tomatoes annually at a fixed price. Investors contributed $100 million of the $200 million needed for construction, with Sundrop covering the difference.
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