In­ter­na­tional study into Pil­bara crops

Pilbara News - - News - Tom Zaun­mayr and Cally Dupe

A long-held as­pi­ra­tion to re­alise the Pil­bara’s crop­ping po­ten­tial re­ceived a leg-up when a global sus­tain­able food scheme con­firmed in­ter­est in an Aus­tralian­first ven­ture in the re­gion.

The vice-pres­i­dent of Nor­we­gian com­pany Sa­hara For­est Project, Kjetil Stake, said the com­pany had com­mis­sioned a fea­si­bil­ity study into farm­ing at Kar­ratha.

“Ba­si­cally, the project is about us­ing what we have enough of to pro­duce what we need more of,” he said.

“We can grow any tra­di­tional crop that you grow in a green­house — cu­cum­bers, pep­pers (capsicum), aubergines (egg­plant).” Mr Stake said the com­pany would as­sess what the “lo­cal mar­ket” needed, as well as what could be ex­ported to other ar­eas.

“We have enough sunlight, we have enough CO2 and dry ar­eas and we want to pro­duce more clean en­ergy and food ... it needs to be good for the en­vi­ron­ment, good for peo­ple and good for in­vestors,” he said.

Mr Stake said the com­pany had formed a co-op­er­a­tion agree­ment with State and lo­cal gov­ern­ment, and Yara Pil­bara, which it worked with in Qatar.

The con­clu­sions of the re­port will be ready next Novem­ber.

The study will fo­cus on in­fra­struc­ture re­quire­ments, en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial im­pacts, and the eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity of a new en­vi­ron­men­tal so­lu­tion us­ing salt wa­ter, sunlight and car­bon diox­ide to pro­duce food, fresh wa­ter and clean en­ergy.

Early es­ti­mates sug­gest the project would add $10 mil­lion to the lo­cal econ­omy and cre­ate 20 jobs, and use a re­search, de­vel­op­ment and train­ing cen­tre where fur­ther em­ploy­ment is pos­si­ble.

The project will use green­houses with sea­wa­ter to pro­vide grow­ing con­di­tions for crops.

Yara chief tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cer Pierre Her­ben said its in­dus­trial ex­pe­ri­ence would be valu­able in clos­ing the gap be­tween fu­ture de­mand and avail­able re­sources.

Yara Pil­bara, Roy­al­ties for Re­gions, the City of Kar­ratha and SFP contributed to­wards the $550,000 fea­si­bil­ity study.

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