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Just outside Pretoria, a 1ha farm is producing 5t of fish using just 1% of the fresh water a traditional farming operation would need. And it’s growing vegetables, using the ammonia-rich water from the fish tanks for irrigation, then distilling the run-off and piping it back to the fish tanks in a never-ending cycle. It’s a sophisticated operation, with technology that allows sensors to be activated remotely to monitor the fish and plants, turn water pumps on and off, and alert farmworkers if the fish are in danger or distress. "It’s a completely self-sustainable turnkey model," says Leon van Deventer, agricultural engineer at technology company Matsei, which runs the pilot farm alongside Swedish enterprise software company IFS. "You can put it in the middle of the desert because all you need is solar energy and satellite communication to monitor sensors on the plants and fish tanks, and you use so little water." It may be difficult to get one’s head around the idea of farming in a ...

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