Port Augusta Australia ( Solar Thermal Magazine ) – A landmark 20 hectare greenhouse, where tomatoes are grown with solar power and desalinated seawater, will be built at South Australia’s Port Augusta after the signing of an unprecedented 10 year contract between Sundrop Farms and Coles. Sundrop Farms, which is a pioneer in sustainable agriculture for the arid world, will create around 300 jobs by building the state‐of‐the‐art greenhouse at Port Augusta. Construction is due to commence this month.
In a win for jobs and investment in South Australia and for Coles’ customers across Australia who are eating more tomatoes than ever before, the facility will grow truss tomatoes 365 days a year.
Announced today in Adelaide by the Premier of South Australia, The Hon. Jay Weatherill MP,Sundrop Farms CEO Philipp Saumweber and Coles Managing Director John Durkan, the sustainable horticulture model will also receive funding from the State Government over the next three years.
Mr Saumweber said the company was excited about commencing construction of the greenhouse following a successful trial at Port Augusta and the signing of the 10‐year contract with Coles.
“This agreement represents a significant milestone for Sundrop Farms, giving us the confidence to proceed with the Port Augusta project,” he said.
Importantly, the Coles partnership allows Sundrop Farms to make a long‐term commitment to regional South Australia.
Coles Managing Director John Durkan said Coles was pleased to help satisfy continual strong growth in customer demand for tomatoes in Australia from a South Australian facility, which was highly innovative and progressive for its use of solar energy and seawater.
“By entering into a 10‐year deal to buy Australian‐grown tomatoes from Sundrop Farms, we are supporting an enterprise which is redefining sustainable agriculture in Australia,” Mr Durkan said.
“This is the first time we have signed a contract of this length for Australian‐grown fresh produce and we are delighted it will be supporting the creation of 300 new jobs and investment in South Australia.”
Mr Durkan said Sundrop Farms would supply Coles with truss tomatoes from early 2016. “Our contract with Sundrop Farms will help to satisfy the continual growth in demand for tomatoes among Australians. Tomatoes continually grow in popularity and are consistently ranked in the top 10 of most popular items in shoppers’ grocery basket,” Mr Durkan said.
“For truss tomatoes, we expect demand will continue to increase by between 15% and 25% each year. At the moment, demand for truss tomatoes consistently outweighs supply, so the contract with Sundrop Farms will help meet this growth in demand.”
Mr Saumweber said the company had created a proprietary food production system which enabled it to grow high quality produce all year round at Port Augusta in greenhouses that that rely primarily on seawater and sunlight to grow produce.
“We grow food where land is too arid for farming and fresh water is in short supply. Farming with typical agricultural inputs would be unsustainable in these regions, so Sundrop Farms uses renewable energy to heat, power, and water its crops,” he said.
Mr Saumweber said Sundrop Farms expected to create 100 jobs at Port Augusta during the construction phase and once completed, nearly 200 farm jobs will be created in peak periods.
“By signing this deal, Coles emphasises its commitment to Australian‐grown produce and true long‐term sustainability,” he said.