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Archi-ponics: Hydro Headed Home – Growing in the Middle East

The government of Bahrain plans to adopt hydroponics systems in the near future. The government of Bahrain plans to adopt hydroponics systems in the near future.

Hydroponics is headed to Bahrain! This tiny piece of land surrounded by salt water is making a large investment in a hydroponic facility with the intent to train the locals in hydroponic crop production and encourage them to grow for themselves. This move is a big step and makes complete sense due to the fact that Bahrain is in the desert and access to fresh water is limited, not to mention the fact that global food prices continues to rise. If the Bahrainis have their own access to food, then they will spend their money on other things, which will encourage a healthy economy.

Most people don’t know that the Middle East possibly the birthplace of hydroponics. One of the first signs of people growing without soil was in Babylon, in the Hanging Gardens, thousands of years ago. The current system the Bahraini government is constructing has a twist - instead of adding nutrients to the reservoir to feed the crop, this system will rely on fish to provide the needed nutrients for the plants. In other words: aquaponics.

The upside of aquaponics is that not only do you have a crop of plants as a product, but you have fish that can go to the market as well. Also, aquaponic systems are virtually a closed loop, growing the food for the fish off the nutrients created by fish excrement in the fish tank, which then circulates through the hydroponics system to feed the plants, after going through a filtration process. Although the water and labor savings are near the same in more traditional, nutrient added, hydroponic systems, I have yet to see an aquaponics system produce crops at the rate of traditional hydroponics. But with the added benefit of the protein byproduct (fish), many people view these systems as their choice for sustainable crop production.

As the costs of water, fertilizers, and labor continue to rise, and the global population continues to grow, the value of crops will continue to rise, prompting growers to invest in greenhouses and hydroponics, which can dramatically increase yields and mitigate crop loss due to poor weather, pests, and diseases.

Expect to see many more governments and companies invest in hydroponic systems in the near future. As the costs of water, fertilizers, and labor continue to rise, and the global population continues to grow, the value of crops will continue to rise, prompting growers to invest in greenhouses and hydroponics, which can dramatically increase yields and mitigate crop loss due to poor weather, pests, and diseases.

Additionally, expect to see more hydroponics being used for disaster relief as well, since hydroponic systems can be established fairly quickly, and relocated if needed. I expect to see governments begin to start using hydroponics to provide food in disaster and famine areas, as opposed to short term aid in the form of packaged meals and water. United Sustainable Agriculture is one such company poised to work with governments as well as aid and relief organization to create long-term food production systems in disaster areas and unstable regions. The U.S. military is already helping the Afghanis with making their farmland more productive, and to convert their crops from the opium poppy, the cash crop that fuels the Taliban, to food. As said in the old Chinese proverb, “If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, and he eats for life.”

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As a war vet and hydroponics farmer, Colin Archipley has a unique understanding of both hydroponics and the Middle East.
Last modified on Wednesday, 01 August 2012 19:00

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