Desert food bowl scheme

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Tom Zaun­mayr

The out­skirts of Kar­ratha have be­come the fo­cus of a po­ten­tial global sus­tain­able food, wa­ter and en­ergy scheme that would pump mil­lions of dol­lars into the lo­cal econ­omy.

Nor­we­gian-based Sa­hara For­est Project is work­ing with Yara Pil­bara and the City of Kar­ratha to in­ves­ti­gate the vi­a­bil­ity of in­ten­sive agri­cul­tural in­dus­tries in the re­gion. The project is still in its early days and is yet to go through a fea­si­bil­ity study but it has the po­ten­tial to cre­ate about 20 jobs, as well as use as a re­search, de­vel­op­ment and train­ing cen­tre where fur­ther em­ploy­ment could be pos­si­ble.

Es­ti­ma­tions sug­gest it would add about $10 mil­lion to the lo­cal econ­omy.

Yara Pil­bara health, en­vi­ron­ment, safety and qual­ity man­ager Brian Howarth said dis­cus­sions re­gard­ing the project had so far been pos­i­tive.

“The (Sa­hara For­est Project) has un­der­taken a pi­lot project in Qatar to use so­lar power and salt­wa­ter-cooled green­houses to grow veg­eta­bles in the desert,” he said.

“There have been dis­cus­sions be­tween Yara and the SFP about the po­ten­tial to de­velop a sim­i­lar project in the Pil­bara given the hot cli­mate, ex­cel­lent so­lar con­di­tions and ac­cess to sea­wa­ter and land.”

The City has agreed to pro­vide $50,000 and in-kind staff sup­port to­wards the fea­si­bil­ity study should the project pro­ceed.

City of Kar­ratha Mayor Peter Long said the City had con­trib­uted to site iden­ti­fi­ca­tion for the project.

“Whether this par­tic­u­lar pro­posal is found to be fea­si­ble or not, the knowl­edge gained in the fea­si­bil­ity study process will be valu­able in iden­ti­fy­ing and as­sess­ing other fu­ture projects,” he said.

”If these types of semi-arid agri­cul­tural prac­tices are found to be work­able in our re­gion it could po­ten­tially pro­vide a sig­nif­i­cant boost to our agri­cul­tural out­put.”

It will now go to the Pil­bara De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion to seek fur­ther fund­ing and ap­provals.

A Sa­hara For­est Project spokesman said the com­pany did not com­ment on projects which were yet to re­ceive for­mal ap­provals.

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