Growing vegetables in salt water could address world food situation

Experts say food production needs to increase by 70 per cent in the next 30 years to feed a world population expected to reach 9 billion people. Unfortunately, traditional agriculture is facing increasing scarcity of water due to climate change. Freshwater accounts for only 2 per cent of all water on Earth, and in many areas, such as the Sub-Saharan region and the Sub-Indian continent, water is seriously scarce or heavily contaminated.

Even regions famous for their wet weather, such as the UK, are facing droughts due to low rainfall and increased water usage. In May, the UK saw only half of the average rainfall it would usually expect. According to the UK Centre of Ecology and Hydrology, last spring was the fourth driest ever recorded and the driest spring on record in many regions of England and Wales.

That’s why a farm on Scotland's West Coast is using the Atlantic Ocean to grow vegetables instead. Led by Glasgow-based startup Seawater Solutions they are using saltwater instead of fresh to grow food.

“We take this land, whether it’s degraded farmland or flooding-affected lands, and we then build an artificial saltmarsh ecosystem where we can extract food at the same time,” Yanik Nyberg, founder of Seawater Solutions, tells Euronews Living.

These crops, called halophytes, thrive in waters with a high percentage of salt such as semi-deserts and seashores. Halophytes can be eaten or used as raw material for cosmetics, biofuels and sea-plant animal fodder. The saltmarshes where they grow protect the coast from flooding and erosion and absorb 30 times more carbon than rainforests do.

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