Revolutionising agriculture in arid climates with cutting edge technology

14 May 2015

Innovative greenhouse business Sundrop Farms, is changing the way we think about agriculture - one tomato at a time.

 

It's responded to our drying climate and global food demand by creating a sustainable food production that doesn't rely on fossil fuels - or ground water.  In fact its produce doesn't even need soil to grow. 

 

The farm's greenhouse uses solar power and desalinated ocean water to grow vegetables in Port Augusta, 300 kilometres north of Adelaide.  The 20-hectare greenhouse facility produces more than 15,000 tons of vegetables (many of them tomatoes) annually for markets across Australia. 

 

SAGE Automation is proud to have been part of making this all possible. Here's how...

 

Background

Sundrop Farms is an international arid climate agribusiness that grows crops in energy efficient greenhouses to meet the demands of future food production. In 2010 it began operating in South Australia, and in 2014 it began building the 20-hectare greenhouse with the help of its partner Global investment firm KKR. 

 

California-based company eSolar's heliostats were used to power the greenhouse. The heliostats track the sun, redirecting and focusing solar energy to a tower-mounted receiver system provided by Aalborg CSP A/S, a world leader in concentrated solar power boiler systems and technologies.

 

Challenge


The site's energy capture process uses approximately 24,000 of eSolar's heliostats to harvest solar thermal energy.  The energy is stored and then used around the clock to power the entire operation, control the temperature inside the greenhouse and drive a thermal desalination process.

 

eSolar needed a reliable power distribution and communication system to control this highly complex process.  Knowing SAGE's expertise in this area, eSolar contacted SAGE to help. 

 

Solution

 

SAGE designed, constructed and tested the heliostat power distribution and communication enclosure for the operation. The enclosure contains rack-mounted backup battery management, custom electronics, network and server gear, power distribution panels and a control panel. 

 

In particular, SAGE achieved:

  • Turnkey electrical design and integration of proprietary and off the shelf equipment
  • Global sourcing for specific engineering requirements
  • Design and manufacture of equipment suitable for the protection and distribution of Electrical Power at non-standard voltages
  • Mobile switch room solution for efficient site installation, security and equipment longevity
  • Deliver at remote location for global clients

 

Outcome

 

Sundrop Farms' 20 hectare greenhouse with solar system was completed in 2016.

 

It uses solar energy to power the plant growing systems and to heat and cool the greenhouses as required.

 

It's solar tower is 115 metres high and has 23,000 mirrors pointed at it. All of its water comes from the Spencer Gulf, and is desalinated using a thermal desalination plant.

 

All this technology goes into growing delicious tomatoes for Coles Supermarket, which can be found in stores nationwide.

 

SAGE works for industrial operators to optimise their energy useage and partners to deliver Energy Management Systems for large scale solar projects.  Contact us today via the form below to learn how we can help. 

 

 

 

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