Throughout the lands of the Persian Gulf, desertification is a fact of life. As a result, the countries of this region import 90 percent of their food supply. A new technology developed by visionary researchers at the Waseda University, in Japan, might have found the solution to this problem. A special absorbent film that require no soil may be able to grow plants more efficiently than soil farming.
The research team, lead by Professor Yuichi Mori, has developed a hydrogel film that can hold 1,000 times of its weight in water. The scientists are already testing these films in 180 film farms.
Mori, who is also an advisor to the Dubai-based firm Agricel, hopes to make the technology popular throughout the United Arab Emirates.
The hydrogel membrane absorbs water and nutrients from the culture placed underneath. The culture absorbed by the hydrogel film is delivered to the plants, which spread their roots throughout the film. Cherry tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and melons are only some of the many fruits and vegetables that are proven to grow well on the film.
The new technology is able to save water by 90 percent and uses 80 percent less fertilizer since the absence of soil attracts fewer pests. The system is efficient enough to increase productivity by 50 percent compared to traditional farming methods. The film can be installed on any surface and it can be productive throughout the year.
The new farming method will be highly important for countries such as the UAE, where barren lands and low precipitation make traditional farming impossible. The technology might also reduce the dependence of these countries on oil as their only commercial commodity.