In Saudi Arabia, researchers grew spinach with water harvested out of thin air

In news that sounds more like a tall tale steeped in magical realism, last summer researchers grew spinach in the sweltering Saudi Arabian desert using water harvested out of thin air. Fast Company reports that 50 miles north of Jeddah, “57 seeds sprouted into healthy, seven-inch-tall water spinach leaves” thanks to a solar-powered system that pulled vapor from the air and condensed it into water. While deserts are dry, they’re also sometimes humid. In the Saudi Arabian desert, humidity hovers around 40 percent, but at night it’s closer to 80 percent. The solar-powered prototype developed by researchers absorbs water vapor during peak humidity in the evening and at night. The fascinating experiment actually has huge implications for small farms in dry and remote regions. In the future, these farms may be able to grow their own crops without a water supply. —Tina Vasquez