By creating an organic, wind-powered solar farm, the team of University of California, Davis, scientists is able to grow tomatoes with minimal use of fossil fuels and carbon dioxide.
In a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, the scientists describe a solar powered, solar-controlled system that grows tomatoes and other crops from the ground to harvest them.
The system uses solar cells to grow a thin layer of plastic on top of a thin film of water and soil.
That thin film is then covered with a film of film on top that absorbs sunlight.
The water and film acts as a sponge, absorbing the water and water vapour from the air and storing it as fresh water for later use.
A film of thin film that absorbs and stores water.
A photo of the system as it grows tomatoes in the garden.
The team has already started using the system for its research, using the solar panels on the roof of the lab.
“Our goal was to create a scalable system that could be scaled to produce crops that were both small and cheap to operate and produce, as well as large amounts of CO2 that are not produced in the soil,” says co-author James D. Pimentel, a professor of plant sciences at UC Davis.
“So far, we’ve grown about a dozen tomato varieties with the system, but we’re planning to scale up to produce several hundred plants per year.”
We can also use the system to harvest fruits, which can be made into salad, and vegetables like cabbage and lettuce that can be used as food or used as a protein source.
“So far we have produced a range of crops that are both low in carbon and high in water use, including tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, cauliflower, spinach, peppers, eggplant and watermelon,” he says.
“But the main reason we are using solar panels is that we are harvesting them from the soil and turning them into energy.
That energy is used to generate power for the plants to run and keep them growing, but it’s also very important to have water that can help produce the crops.”
The researchers are working with a team of volunteers and researchers in the US and Europe to make the system more efficient, and are planning to make a solar system that produces enough electricity to power every household in the world.
“The system can be scaled up to feed tens of thousands of households per year,” Pimentels co-authors Emily L. Hockenberry and David M. Henshaw wrote in the paper.
“By combining our solar system with photovoltaic panels, we hope to produce enough energy for every household to have a small solar panel that can run for a few hours every day, but not for a large, sustained operation that will generate a lot of CO 2 emissions.”
The system is being used by researchers in Italy to monitor carbon dioxide emissions.
A similar system was used to monitor air quality.
“This system is an example of how solar-based systems can be harnessed to produce significant benefits for the environment, such as reducing air pollution,” said Pimentes co-researcher, Jannet Grosch, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab and a researcher at the Centre for Sustainable Development in Italy.