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Geothermal energy can help developing countries boost food security, says UN agency report


April 10, 2015
By Ground Water Canada

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April 10, 2015, New York – The heat energy generated by the earth’s core can be used for
cost efficient, sustainable food production and processing in
developing countries, says a new report from the United Nations agricultural agency.

April 10, 2015, New York – The heat energy generated by the earth’s core can be used for
cost efficient, sustainable food production and processing in
developing countries, says a new report from the United Nations agricultural agency.

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The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report "Uses of Geothermal Energy in Food and Agriculture"
says that geothermal energy can help prevent the huge post-harvest
currently faced by many developing countries, and can be a prime source
of heat for greenhouses, soils and water for fish farming.

 

“It’s an energy source that’s renewable, clean and low-cost once you’ve made the initial investment to harness it,” said Carlos da Silva, senior agribusiness economist in FAO’s Rural Infrastructure and Agro-Industries Division, in a news release. “By using a clean energy source, you’re not only addressing cost
but also the environmental impacts of food production and processing.”

 

Heat energy can be used for processing to boost food security and drying
foods, pasteurizing milk and sterilizing produce are particularly
viable options for developing countries, prolonging shelf lives of
nutritious foods like fish and vegetables and making them available
year-round, including in times of drought.

 

Countries in the so-called "Ring of Fire" along the Pacific Plate, such
as Mexico, Indonesia, the Philippines and various nations along the
Pacific Coast of South America are particularly feasible locations, as
are Ethiopia and Kenya in Africa’s Rift Valley, as are Romania and
Macedonia in Eastern Europe.

 

Worldwide, 38 countries currently use geothermal energy for direct
application in agricultural production and 24 harness it to generate
electricity, with Iceland, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Kenya, New Zealand
and the Philippines deriving more than 10 percent of their electricity
needs from natural heat sources.

 

Among developing countries, 23 use geothermal energy, with most apply it
to space heating and recreational purposes like bathing, leaving its
significant potential for agricultural uses generally untapped.

 

“Geothermal energy for agriculture can be done even at small-scales and
can significantly contribute to income generation, providing employment
and improving food and nutrition security in developing countries,” said
Divine Njie, AGS deputy director, who co-edited the report.

 

The FAO’s news release points to projects which show that the challenges
associated with establishing geothermal energy, such as high start-up
costs, are not insurmountable, particularly with government support.

 

“The FAO report also shows that there are direct-use opportunities which
do not require high-cost exploration and exploitation,” he added.

 

Examples include a government-funded project in Algeria which supports
the building of fish farms that use hot water from drill holes to heat
Tilapia ponds, and a project in Thailand where chillies and garlic,
which are highly popular, were dried using waste heat from a geothermal
power plant.