Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Over the last few years a lot has been said about the potential of hydroponic and aquaponic production systems.  In my own view, to this point, they have not shown themselves to be price competitive when compared with other, simpler, production systems for the developing world. 

However, there is a tipping point when new techniques and technologies become well established enough to move beyond proof of concept and begin to compete on a crop-per-dollar level.  I believe that we may have reached that point with hydroponic production in Jordan.  This is primarily because local system designs have begun to take advantage of local materials and expertise bringing down the cost of conversion to those systems very significantly.  As a result the AC4D farm will begin work on converting two of our existing traditional greenhouses into hydroponic greenhouses to be planted this September with the rest of the crops.  These houses will provide roughly 1000 square meters of test beds for soil less production. 

Calculated risk on behalf of smallholders who must mitigate their own risk is right.  This concept is at the core of all of our trials.  I will be highlighting and reflecting upon the steps in our conversion process this summer in order to facilitate local adoption.  A consultant engineer working under contract with USAID will be our technical advisor as we plan and implement the project in the next few months.

Why use a technology that facilitates the use of far less water when saving water is not the ultimate goal of smallholder farmers?    

Aquaponics allows us to farm the same "ground" year after year without increasing soil salinity to the point where cultivation is not profitable. 

In open field systems "active deferment" measures like plowing before the rainy season to leach salt from fields and the use of barley to pull salt up into a plant that can be carried off property are effective means of lowering salinity and increasing soil health.  With greenhouse production deferment is not a good option as too much is invested in the greenhouses to defer their use.  Something has to be done to solve this issue.  Hydroponics delivers a long term solution without having to move greenhouses every few years.

Our trial will show us, and local farmers, whether the additional quality and quantity of produce supplied by a hydroponic system substantiates its additional startup and operational costs.   

5 rows per 9 meter wide greenhouse

Drain water collection and fresh water mixing tanks set in ground to facilitate gravity drainage

Tuff is used for rooting material and locally made drip line and grow bags bring down costs significantly

Simple materials and designs for drainage and waste water recovery


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