Making A Difference

Sustainable Farming in the Arid World

Philipp Saumweber (MBA 2006)

Philipp Saumweber (MBA 2006) started Sundrop Farms to bring sustainable horticulture to the arid world, growing high-value crops using seawater and sunlight and bringing jobs to communities that previously had no agriculture sector. In this interview he explains to methods the company uses to operate sustainably.

“I started Sundrop Farms about four years out of the MBA program. Most people don’t know but agriculture consumes … about 50 percent of your operating costs are related to fossil fuels. Agriculture uses about 70 percent of the world’s fresh water resources. So, in that process of investing in the sector, I really thought there had to be a better way to go about this business, to create a more stable business, one that takes less of a toll on the environment.

“Sundrop Farms is a developer, owner, and operator of protected growing facilities and we rely primarily on renewable inputs. Our flagship project is a $200 million farm in Australia where we grow tomatoes specifically for an end-retailer. We fix the price with that retailer over a 10-year period and we do so growing only using sunlight and sea water as our primary inputs. That really allows us to create a much more stable cost environment, [to] have almost no impact on the environment, and to employ people in communities where there wasn’t agriculture before.

“Right now our largest operation is in South Australia; it’s on the edge of the outback, where the desert meets the ocean. We use the sun’s energy to do three things for us. One is to desalinate water, the other is to produce electricity, and [the third is] to produce heating and cooling. That allows us to be incredibly neutral from an environmental impact perspective.”

(Published September 2016)

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