Desert food bowl scheme
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.