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June 24th, 2013 at 9:02 am

Sahara Forest Project – multi-technology synergy to grow food in the desert

Revegetation and creation of green jobs through profitable production of food, freshwater, biofuels and electricity.

The Sahara Forest Project in Qatar is putting together a number of different systems in a complex project intended to “produce food, fresh water and clean energy in deserts using seawater.” The project uses a number of different systems where the waste by-products from one process are used as feedstock for another. It began by focusing on what was readily abundant: seawater, sun, and desert sand, and looking to what was needed: food, energy, and clean water.

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“The seawater, pumped from the nearby Persian Gulf, is the system’s lifeblood. It’s used to cool and humidify the greenhouses. It’s also used to grow algae to produce biofuel, with the leftovers from that process going to make animal feed. Some of it is transformed into fresh water by a solar-powered desalination unit. Some of it may even be used down the road to raise fish or shrimp.”

The project greenhouse is fed with CO2 from a nearby fertilizer plant, which helps reduce the atmospheric emissions from the manufacturing process as well as providing an environment in which the plants thrive. Seawater is also pumped into the greenhouse to provide evaporative cooling and higher humidity.

“The project’s designers say the concept should work in any low-altitude desert area near a large source of salt water.” Addressing the many needs found in these regions of the world makes this an especially compelling project.

The greatest hindrance to this project is its high cost, though the prototype is being funded by Qatar. In the long term, the lessons from this pilot project may be able to be deployed in the many areas around the world where inhospitable deserts can be brought to life.

An audio story about the project along with further images at TheWorld.org provides further information about this complex, intriguing experiment.

Via ecogeek.org

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