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Modern Agriculture

01 Mar 12

Just Add Water

by Seawater Greenhouse (UK)

Using greenhouses to create fresh water from seawater

Drought, desertification, food shortages, famine, energy security, land use conflict, mass migration and economic collapse, climate change and CO2 sequestration… are some of the issues that can be overcome by adding water, but how?

Present methods of supply in arid regions include; over-abstraction from ground reserves, diverting water from other regions and energy-intensive desalination. None of these are sustainable in the long term and inequitable distribution leads to conflict.

The growth in demand for water and increasing shortages are two of the most predictable scenarios of the 21st century. Agriculture is the primary pressure point. A shortage of water will also affect the carbon cycle as shrinking forests reduce the rate of carbon capture, and will disrupt the regulating influence that trees and vegetation have on our climate.

Fortunately, the world is not short of water, it is just in the wrong place and too salty. Converting seawater to fresh water in the right places offers the potential to solve all these problems.

Currently there are over 1 million hectares of greenhouses worldwide of which some 200,000 hectares are in the Mediterranean region. This area has been growing at around 10% a year. Most of these face water quality and availability issues and most contribute to the depletion of ground water. By using greenhouses to create fresh water from seawater, we convert an extractive model of agriculture into a restorative one, and grow more crops.
sustainable agriculture, “precision farming” pilots that seek to optimise land and water productive, weather based agricultural advisory generation, community based water budgeting for crop planning, biodiversity conservation, hydrogeology, rural energy systems and establishing climate smart livelihoods that benefit and grow the local economy. This is a multi-stakeholder venture involving national research institutions, government agencies (national and international), local governance institutions, civil society and community based organisations.

  • Charlie Paton, Founder and Managing Director, Seawater Greenhouse, United Kingdom

Related Resources


Seawater Greenhouse Ltd. (UK)

The Seawater Greenhouse provides a low-cost solution by enabling year-round crop production in some of the world’s hottest and driest regions using seawater and sunlight.


Just Add Water

by Seawater Greenhouse (UK)

Related Media Coverage

18 Feb 11

State of the Planet – Earth Institute Blog

The Seawater Greenhouse provides what may be an economical and sustainable way of producing fresh water and crops in hot, dry regions near the ocean.

02 Sep 08

The Guardian

The planned project would use solar power to evaporate salt water, generating cool air and pure water thereby allowing food to be grown


  • IFPRI International Food Policy Research Institute
  • WEF World Economic Forum
  • WWF World Wide Fund for Nature

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  • NRW Ministerin fr Bundesangelegenheiten, Europa und Medien des Landes Nordrhein-Westphalen
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