Search
Close this search box.

We are creating some awesome events for you. Kindly bear with us.

Australia’s Solar-Powered Ocean Agriculture

Image Credits: UniSA, Press Release
Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

To capitalise on the abundant and free resources of the sun and sea, researchers at the University of South Australia have initiated a pioneering project to construct vertical sea farms floating on the ocean. These innovative sea farms possess the capability to produce fresh water for drinking and agriculture without human intervention, offering a potential solution to the impending global crises of freshwater scarcity and food shortage, anticipated to be exacerbated by the projected world population reaching 10 billion by 2050.

Led by Professor Haolan Xu and Dr Gary Owens from UniSA’s Future Industries Institute, this inventive system comprises two main components: an upper layer resembling a glasshouse and a lower water harvest chamber. The system’s functionality bears a resemblance to a wicking bed, a concept familiar to home gardeners, but with a remarkable twist. It relies on an array of solar evaporators that absorb seawater, isolate the salts within the evaporator structure, and, when exposed to the sun’s rays, release clean water vapour into the atmosphere. This vapour then condenses on water belts and is transported to the upper plant growth chamber.

In a field test, the researchers successfully cultivated three common vegetable crops – broccoli, lettuce, and pak choi – using seawater surfaces without the need for maintenance or additional clean water irrigation. The system, powered solely by solar energy, offers several advantages over existing solar sea farm designs that are currently undergoing testing.

Professor Xu highlights that other designs incorporate evaporators within the growth chamber, occupying valuable space that could otherwise be used for plant growth. Additionally, these systems are susceptible to overheating, which can lead to crop damage or death. In contrast, the innovative design developed by Professor Xu’s team distributes the evaporator and growth chambers vertically, reducing the device’s overall footprint and maximising the area available for food production. The system is not only fully automated but also cost-effective and easy to operate, relying exclusively on solar energy and seawater to generate clean water and cultivate crops.

Dr Owens emphasised that while their design currently represents a proof-of-concept, the next step is to scale it up, utilising a small array of individual devices to enhance plant production. Meeting the growing demands of food supply will necessitate both increasing the size and number of these devices.

It is conceivable that in the future, vast farm biodomes could float on the ocean’s surface, or multiple smaller devices could be deployed across expansive sea areas. Their existing prototype is also poised for modifications aimed at achieving a higher biomass output. One such modification involves using cost-effective substrate materials like waste rice straw fibre, which would further reduce operational costs.

The research team has demonstrated that the recycled water produced by their system is of sufficient quality for drinking, with lower salinity levels than the World Health Organization’s guidelines for drinking water. This innovation is timely, given the United Nations estimates that approximately 2.4 billion people are likely to face water shortages by 2050. During the same period, the global water supply for agricultural irrigation is projected to decline by approximately 19%.

Freshwater constitutes a mere 2.5% of the world’s water, and much of it is inaccessible, and trapped in glaciers, ice caps, or deep underground reservoirs. It’s not that the quantity of freshwater is diminishing, but rather that the limited available supply faces increasing demand due to population growth and the effects of climate change. In contrast, a staggering 97.5% of the world’s water resides in the oceans, readily available.

This technology harnesses the power of the sea and sun to tackle the escalating global challenges of water scarcity, food shortage, and diminishing agricultural land. Widespread adoption of the technology has the potential to enhance the well-being of billions of people worldwide.

PARTNER

Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, where everyone can use data and analytics to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. A private company, Qlik offers real-time data integration and analytics solutions, powered by Qlik Cloud, to close the gaps between data, insights and action. By transforming data into Active Intelligence, businesses can drive better decisions, improve revenue and profitability, and optimize customer relationships. Qlik serves more than 38,000 active customers in over 100 countries.

PARTNER

As a Titanium Black Partner of Dell Technologies, CTC Global Singapore boasts unparalleled access to resources.

Established in 1972, we bring 52 years of experience to the table, solidifying our position as a leading IT solutions provider in Singapore. With over 300 qualified IT professionals, we are dedicated to delivering integrated solutions that empower your organization in key areas such as Automation & AI, Cyber Security, App Modernization & Data Analytics, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Workplace Modernization and Professional Services.

Renowned for our consulting expertise and delivering expert IT solutions, CTC Global Singapore has become the preferred IT outsourcing partner for businesses across Singapore.

PARTNER

Planview has one mission: to build the future of connected work. Our solutions enable organizations to connect the business from ideas to impact, empowering companies to accelerate the achievement of what matters most. Planview’s full spectrum of Portfolio Management and Work Management solutions creates an organizational focus on the strategic outcomes that matter and empowers teams to deliver their best work, no matter how they work. The comprehensive Planview platform and enterprise success model enables customers to deliver innovative, competitive products, services, and customer experiences. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with locations around the world, Planview has more than 1,300 employees supporting 4,500 customers and 2.6 million users worldwide. For more information, visit www.planview.com.

SUPPORTING ORGANISATION

SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

PARTNER

HashiCorp provides infrastructure automation software for multi-cloud environments, enabling enterprises to unlock a common cloud operating model to provision, secure, connect, and run any application on any infrastructure. HashiCorp tools allow organizations to deliver applications faster by helping enterprises transition from manual processes and ITIL practices to self-service automation and DevOps practices. 

PARTNER

IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider. We help clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity and service.