Sundrop Farms

Sundrop Farms is a developer, owner and operator of high tech greenhouse facilities which grow crops using methods which reduce reliance on finite natural resources when compared to conventional greenhouse production.[1] Sundrop Farms opened its first pilot facility in Port Augusta, South Australia, in 2010 (operating as Seawater Greenhouse Australia Pty Ltd). This facility was originally designed as a Seawater Greenhouse. However, significant technology changes led to the Sundrop System, and the dissolution of the joint venture with Seawater Greenhouse Ltd.[2] Sundrop Farms commissioned an expanded 20 ha facility south of Port Augusta in 2016. Sundrop Farms has offices in London, UK and Adelaide, Australia. In October 2016, Sundrop Farms was operating greenhouses in Portugal, the United States and had another facility planned in Australia.[3]

Sundrop systemEdit

The primary inputs to a greenhouse are heat, electricity, water, and nutrients. The Sundrop System is a collection of technologies which, when used in combination, reduce the need for finite resources in these inputs versus conventional greenhouse production. In Sundrop Farms’ first facilities in South Australia, these technologies include concentrated solar power, thermal desalination, and steam-driven electricity generation.[4] This is the first combined heat, power, and water system powered by solar energy for greenhouse production.

Commercial expansion in AustraliaEdit

Sundrop Farms
20 hectare expansion project, Port Augusta, South Australia
LocationPort Paterson, South Australia
Coordinates32°32′51.4″S 137°50′48.1″E / 32.547611°S 137.846694°E / -32.547611; 137.846694
Construction began2016
Owner(s)Sundrop Farms
Operator(s)Sundrop Farms
Solar farm
CSP technologySolar power tower
Total collector area51,500 square metres (554,000 sq ft)
Power generation
Nameplate capacity1.5MWe
External links
CommonsRelated media on Commons

In 2015, Sundrop Farms constructed a 20 hectare solar-powered greenhouse facility near its original site, south of Port Augusta in South Australia.[5] This facility, completed in 2016, produces over 15,000 tonnes of truss tomatoes (on the vine) each year to supply the Australian supermarket operator Coles under a ten-year contract.[6] Sundrop Farms operations are primarily powered by a concentrated solar thermal power plant and seawater withdrawn from Spencer Gulf and desalinated to feed produce. The project was expected to generate around 100 jobs during the construction of the greenhouse facility (in 2015) and approximately 200 jobs once operational. In 2014, private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts invested $100 million in the company. The development was supported by the Government of South Australia which provided approximately $6 million in grant funding. A $150 million development contract was awarded to John Holland in 2014 to construct the expanded facility over an 18-24 month time-frame[7][8] and the total project cost is an estimated $205 million.[9]

The $175 million, highly productive "farm" opened in June 2016 and produces 10-15 per cent of Australia's truss tomatoes to Coles.[10] In May 2019, it was sold to Morrison and Co.[11] It employs 300 people.[12]

Concentrated solar powerEdit

Sundrop Farms' 20 hectare expanded facility is powered by an Integrated Energy System based on the concentrated solar power (CSP) technology.[13] The system is designed and delivered by Danish renewable energy specialist, Aalborg CSP, and it is the first large-scale CSP-based technology in the world to provide multiple energy streams – heating, fresh water and electricity – for horticultural activities.[14] The 51,500 m2 solar field comprises eSolar’s Solar Collector System.[15] Commissioned in October 2016,[16][17][18][19] the facility's concentrated solar thermal plant peak heat production rate is 39 MW,[20] and desalinates water while producing 1.5 MWe of electricity.[21]

Desalination plantEdit

Sundrop Farms' original pilot facility desalinated seawater but did not return waste brine to Spencer Gulf. The brine was collected in ponds from which salt could be harvested.[22] The company's brine management plan changed with its 20 hectare expansion in 2014. Sundrop Farms sought and received approval from the South Australian Environment Protection Authority to discharge waste brine into Spencer Gulf at a salinity of 60 parts per thousand. The expanded facility discharges its brine into the cooling water outflow channel previously used by the coal-fired Port Augusta power stations.[21]

Environmental approval from the Commonwealth Government via referral under the EPBC Act[23] was not required of or sought by Sundrop Farms for this project. Sundrop Farms continues to investigate commercially viable solutions for the recovery of minerals from brine at a large scale.[4]

Government supportEdit

In addition to receiving government financial support, the firm was endorsed by South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill and several South Australian ministers, including Geoff Brock[24] and Gail Gago.[25] Sundrop Farms' former chairman David Travers was employed in the South Australian public sector as the Deputy Agent General for South Australia in London when he received the firm's initial proposal.[22][26] The Clean Energy Finance Corporation[27] was an early supporter of the project, committing as a cornerstone debt financier. CEO Philipp Saumweber[28] described the CEFC's commitment as invaluable in enabling the company to subsequently negotiate growth capital funding from global investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR).


  1. ^ "The Q&A: John Phinney of Sundrop Farms". Retrieved 2016-01-05.
  2. ^ Margolis, Jonathan (24 November 2012). "Growing food in the desert: is this the solution to the world's food crisis?". the Guardian. Retrieved 2016-01-05.
  3. ^ Staight, Kerry (2016-10-01). "'First in the world': Solar-powered greenhouse growing food without fresh water". ABC News. Retrieved 2019-11-12.
  4. ^ a b "Sundrop System - Sundrop Farms". Sundrop Farms. Retrieved 2016-01-05.
  5. ^ Fairfax Regional Media (24 March 2016). "Solar tower reaches new heights". The Transcontinental. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  6. ^ "Kohlberg Kravis Diversifies: Invests $100M in Sundrop Farms - Analyst Blog". Retrieved 2015-10-14.
  7. ^ "MINUTES OF PORT AUGUSTA CITY COUNCIL MEETING HELD ON MONDAY 15 DECEMBER 2014" (PDF). Port Augusta City Council. 2014-12-15. Retrieved 2015-10-19.
  8. ^ Brown-Paul, Christine (2015-01-01). "Fossil Free Future" (PDF). Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses (151). Retrieved 2015-10-19.
  9. ^ "In Focus - South Australian Major Developments 2014/15 (p44)" (PDF). Government of South Australia. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  10. ^ "The future of farming". The Australian. 12 August 2016.
  11. ^ "Futuristic renewable-energy agribusiness Sundrop Farms sells to trans-Tasman investment firm". ABC News. 15 May 2019. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  12. ^ Johnson, Kurt (29 May 2021). "Good taste and food security: How Sundrop used solar to bring tomatoes to the desert". RenewEconomy.
  13. ^ "Solar Thermal Electric - Aalborg CSP begins construction of integrated energy system".
  14. ^ Vorrath, Sophie (24 March 2016). "Solar power tower goes up in Australian desert, ready to grow tomatoes". RenewEconomy.
  15. ^ "Sundrop Farms Port Augusta Expansion". eSolar. Retrieved 2015-10-14.
  16. ^ "A Desert Full of Tomatoes, Thanks to Solar Power and Seawater".
  17. ^ "£120m state-of-the-art-tomato farm opens in Australia". 6 October 2016.
  18. ^ "First farm to grow veg in a desert using only sun and seawater". New Scientist. Retrieved 8 October 2016.
  19. ^ "FOTOS: Danske solanlæg laver 17.000 tons australske tomater". Ingeniøren. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  20. ^ ABC News, 2016. "Sundrop Farms pioneering solar-powered greenhouse to grow food without fresh water",, accessed 2017-01-12
  21. ^ a b "COUNCIL DEVELOPMENT ASSESSMENT PANEL AGENDA Meeting #123" (PDF). Port Augusta City Council. Port Augusta City Council. 2014-08-12. Retrieved 2015-10-14.
  22. ^ a b "Bright Idea". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2012-04-15. Retrieved 2018-12-28.
  23. ^ "Referrals list · Basic Portal". Retrieved 2015-10-14.
  24. ^ "Sundrop Farms greenhouse expansion expected to create 300 jobs in Port Augusta". Yahoo News. Retrieved 2015-10-14.
  25. ^ "Funding for skills to lead to Sundrop Farms jobs". Retrieved 2015-10-14.
  26. ^ UniSA. "The University of South Australia: Home". Retrieved 2015-10-14.
  27. ^ "Home".
  28. ^ "CEFC congratulates Sundrop Farms on securing new global partner for expansion - Clean Energy Finance Corporation".

External linksEdit