How greenhouse horticulture in arid regions can contribute to climate-resilient and sustainable food security

Simon Goddek, Oliver Körner, Karel J. Keesman, Mark A. Tester, Ryan Lefers, Luuk Fleskens, Alyssa Joyce, Erik van Os, Amit Gross, Rik Leemans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


A potential change in climate and temperature could strongly affect weather-related crop losses. Using wastelands to grow crops in controlled greenhouse environments could improve global food security and preserve ecosystems. However, the impact of climate change on additional energy and water requirements of greenhouse-horticulture food production is still unknown. Using a greenhouse simulator for four locations (The Netherlands, Spain, Saudi Arabia and Namibia), we show that a rise in outdoor temperatures can be counterbalanced with a more intensive water-based cooling. Between 6.9% and 17.9%, more water is required in the worst-case scenario in the year 2100, while the yield quantity decreases by 3%–6% due to slightly deteriorating growth conditions within the greenhouse. Since cooling systems consume up to 90% of the total water use in desert greenhouses, saltwater cooling could play an essential role in increasing the efficiency and sustainability of greenhouse horticulture systems in arid regions. In this study, we investigate the economic and technical feasibility of such greenhouse systems on a larger scale and show the massive potential of these systems. The developed scenarios demonstrate considerable climate resilience, enabling the cultivation of fresh vegetables in arid and infertile regions both presently and in the future.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)100701
JournalGlobal Food Security
StatePublished - Aug 14 2023

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2023-09-01
Acknowledgements: We gratefully acknowledge funding support from the Belmont Forum and the European Commission via CITYFOOD (grant agreement No 726744). Also a special thanks to Michael Reuter and Ingo Bläser (aquaponik manufaktur GmbH) for creating the illustration figures. We acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme's Working Group on Coupled Modelling, which is responsible for CMIP.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Safety Research
  • Ecology
  • Food Science


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