Farm­ing with­out soil in land with­out wa­ter

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Grow­ing let­tuce in the desert is not most peo­ple’s idea of how to make a suc­cess of farm­ing, but Amr Bas­siouny believes he is on to some­thing. The 30year-old chief ex­ec­u­tive of Egyp­tian Hy­dro­farms says he is grow­ing salad greens at his farm on the out­skirts of Cairo us­ing 90 per­cent less wa­ter than tra­di­tional meth­ods, and at the same time ob­tain­ing bet­ter yields. “This is im­por­tant in Egypt be­cause we have scarce wa­ter re­sources, so you’re able to grow large quan­ti­ties with much less use of re­sources,” he told Reuters Tele­vi­sion.

Hy­dro­pon­ics is farm­ing in wa­ter in­stead of soil. Bas­siouny places his plants in pipes through which wa­ter and nu­tri­ents are pumped. Egypt’s pop­u­la­tion of more than 90 mil­lion is grow­ing, and agri­cul­tural land is shrink­ing due to il­le­gal con­struc­tion on the fer­tile banks of the Nile and its delta, the coun­try’s bread­bas­ket. Un­li­censed con­struc­tion picked up pace af­ter the 2011 up­ris­ing, with the gov­ern­ment es­ti­mat­ing that 90,000 acres (36,400 hectares) of farm­land were lost in the first three years alone.

“We will be forced to move our farm­ing to the desert, and when we move to the desert, we will ei­ther use up all the avail­able wa­ter, so in 40 or 50 years we won’t have any more wa­ter and we will not be able to farm. “Or, we can start look­ing for ways of grow­ing larger quan­ti­ties by us­ing the least amount of our re­sources as pos­si­ble,” Bas­siouny said. Some say hy­dro­pon­ics was used as far back as the Hang­ing Gar­dens of Baby­lon, one of the seven won­ders of the an­cient world. That the­ory is un­proven, but hy­dro­pon­ics ad­her­ents be­lieve the tech­nol­ogy has stood the test of time.

Though costlier, hy­dro­pon­ics is at­trac­tive for present-day Egypt, much of which is arid and un­suit­able for tra­di­tional farm­ing. Bas­siouny hopes to start ex­port­ing to the Mid­dle East as wa­ter short­ages get worse and tra­di­tional farm­ing be­comes more dif­fi­cult. “Even to­day, the wa­ter in desert wells is be­com­ing too salty and un­suit­able for farm­ing. So we need to find al­ter­na­tive meth­ods of farm­ing, es­pe­cially since we won’t just be feed­ing our­selves, but we will also be ex­port­ing to other coun­tries.”

Chief Com­mer­cial Of­fi­cer Adel Shen­te­nawy, 32, said he had launched a so­cial me­dia cam­paign to ex­plain the ben­e­fits of hy­dro­pon­ics. “Hy­dro­pon­ics isn’t a new idea, it’s been around since the time of the Pharaohs ... All we did was take this idea and added tech­nol­ogy, ef­fi­ciency and pro­duc­tiv­ity.”

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