Hi-tech 'solar greenhouse' grows first cucumbers in Sahara

Rob Waugh
The £3m Sahara Forest Project aims to develop technologies to 'turn the desert green'. (Image: Sahara Forest Project)

The Sahara Desert might not seem the ideal place for a greenhouse - but scientists have grown cucumbers there this year.

The vegetables were grown using seawater and solar power at the Sahara Forest Project pilot facility in Qatar.

In the long term, the project aims to create technologies for turning the desert green.

The £3.3m 'greenhouses' which grew the cucumbers took just 10 months to build - and pump salt water up from beneath the ground to cool the facility, using a cooling principle said to be based on a camel's nostril.

No water is allowed to evaporate in the sun's heat - instead, it's recondensed, and used to water the plants.

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The 10,000 square metre facility is unique - and its scientists are also working on the region’s largest algae research facility.

The Norwegian Minister of the Environment, Bård Vegar Solhjell, was among the first guests at the pilot facility inside Measaieed Industrial City in Qatar.

“It is designed to utilize what we have enough of to produce what we need more of, using deserts, sunlight, saltwater and CO2 to produce food, water and clean energy,” says Joakim Hauge, CEO of The Sahara Forest Project.

“This is a fascinating project,” said Solhjell. “It's almost like you cannot believe it until you see it. Here they use what there is abundance of to create what there is the least of."