Hydroponic rooftop gardens turn Cairo green | Blog

Author: Andrea Dijkstra

Hydroponic rooftop gardens turn Cairo greenVertical hydroponic gardening

‘We make use of vertical hydroponic gardening, which consumes seventy percent less water and takes up less space’, Tarek explains. While these are important benefits in a country  with huge shortages of water and fertile soil, they also make it possible for the families to produce cheap and healthy vegetables on a roof of limited size. Employee Ahmed el Sayed shows how the plants don’t grow in soil but are hanging in bins filled with water. ‘We recycle the water in this closed-loop system by filtering it and adding minerals every time.’

Fish

The two brothers are also working on an aquaponic system where plants become fertilized with fish poop. ‘The organisms keep each other alive in this system. Because the plants extract the poop from the water, the fish stay alive and with the nitrates from the faeces the plants can grow’, Tarek proudly tells. Unfortunately, this year’s cold Egyptian winter killed a few fish. The two brothers now search for a simple way to warm the fish tank before they will introduce this technique to their customers.

Loan system

While the first four rooftop gardens have been financed by crowd funding, in the future the brothers don’t want to depend on donations anymore. ‘We are working on a loan system in which a family makes back the costs of  750 - 1000 euros within one year.’ Tarek and Sherif therefore teach the part-time farmers to cultivate mainly rapidly growing vegetables and herbs, like lettuce and coriander that will quickly bring in money. ‘Slowly growing vegetables would be too big of a risk for the farmers.’

Housebound

A local ngo assists the Egyptian brothers in finding suitable families. ‘We look for people who believe and fit in the concept, like women who are housebound because of child care and in this way can generate extra income for their family’, tells Tarek.

Hydroponic rooftop gardens turn Cairo greenScrub the air

The dramatic pollution in Cairo causes no problems for the rooftop gardens, according to the brothers.  ‘The air has already been purified by surrounding trees before it reaches the roofs’, tells Tarek. Also their own plants scrub the polluted air by absorbing carbon dioxide.  ‘On a larger scale this can certainly have a positive effect on the air quality’, predicts Sherif. But before Schaduf will expand to other neighbourhoods and perhaps to other cities, the brothers want the project to be successfully on a small scale first . ‘We focus on quality, not quantity.’ 

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