- Technology (http://www.livescience.com/42835-soil-free-farming-grows-vegetables-in-the-desert.html)
Agricel is a Dubai-based venture which hopes to expand film farming technology across the U.A.E where water scarcity is a central problem. With the film farming system, plants are grown on a hydromembrane invented by Professor Dr Yuichi Mori of Waseda University in Japan which is made up of water-soluble polymer and hydrogel. Each internal cell within the film adsorbs and holds water and plant nutrients, preventing evaporation and surface loss.
The soil-free technology allows users to reap several benefits. Using Agricel’s technology, farms require 90% less water than traditional methods, while also using 80% less chemicals and producing 50% higher yields. The incidence of diseases by pathogens (bacteria, viruses, etc.) is also fully controlled even without chemicals, because the pathogens cannot penetrate the hydromembrane. The growing method causes the plants to increase their sugar production and amino acids in order to absorb the water. The byproduct of this is produce that is sweeter and more vitamin rich.
- Sustainability Problem
Agricel seeks to ease the daunting task of feeding future generations in an increasingly uncertain climate and world. By promoting film farming and the use of hydrophillic boosters, they have focused their efforts on more efficient water use and fighting world hunger.
This technology reduces the amount of water and fertilizer needed in plants which means crops can be grown in water scarce regions or regions with poor quality soil. The film is versatile and can be placed on nearly any surface such as concrete, bricks or even sand and greenhouse, and in nearly any climate. Hydrogel can be mixed into the local sandy soil, boosting water retention and nutrient distribution.
- Agriculture industry
- Urban and traditional farmers
- Material researchers
- Implementation Process
Launched in 2010, the Agricel network is primarily based in Japan but has since extended to China, Pakistan, Nigeria, the U.A.E, U.K. and Australia. The range of test pilots with successful results allow them to prove the technology’s adaptability.
They are now focusing on partnering with organizations which do not necessarily have the farming technologies or experience but have powerful distribution networks, negotiation capabilities and confidence in the technology to provide safe, reliable and highly nutritive produce. This will allow the technology to be implemented on a larger scale, leveraging partners’ existing network and Agricel’s technical expertise.
Despite the many benefits of film farming, the foremost barrier to implementation is the high cost. The hydrogel film is sold at around $2,000/ acre with a professional installation of about $2 million. However the company suggests that the initial investment will be returned between 18-24 months due to the low operational costs of the farm, in addition to the increased yield and improved quality of the produce.
For their next steps, the company hopes with their expanding scope and scale of technology implementation that continuous R&D could lead to the application of film farming in industrial production.
Agricel, Why Film Farming: http://www.agricel.co/why-film-farming.html
Appropedia, Film Farming: http://www.appropedia.org/Film_Farming
Hydrate Life, Water Saving Technologies: Film Farming: http://www.hydratelife.org/?p=360
Your Culinary World, Amazing New Farming Technique Could Make Food Available Almost Everywhere for Everyone: http://www.yourculinaryworld.com/leading-stories/2012/4/10/amazing-new-farming-technique-could-make-food-available-almo.html