International study into Pilbara crops
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.