When we think about what is involved to produce a crop, our thoughts typically go to soil, water and sunlight. These elements, in combination with care, equipment and labour, are core components of most types of farming, and without them, it would prove to be quite difficult to be successful in growing a crop.
Something we don’t normally associate with farming is being used to produce crops in desert regions by scientists and refugees, though. The something in question? Discarded mattresses, says an article from The Good News Network.
“British scientists have succeeded in cultivating tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and herbs in the desert using discarded mattresses bound for landfill,” the article explains. “The innovative system, which was tested in a refugee camp in Jordan, could be rolled out to every shelter in the world, helping millions of people to thrive in barren landscapes. Since aid workers often discard thousands of used foam mattresses in refugee camps across the globe, University of Sheffield scientists began developing foam ‘soils’ in their labs in hopes of using old bed materials as a growing medium for crops.”
Pretty neat, right?
Composed of hydroponic experts, the research team orchestrating this project is led by professor Tony Ryan. Hydroponics involves growing plants in a water and nutrient-rich solution as opposed to soil, and the practice uses 70-80 per cent less water than planting methods involving a plant being inserted directly in soil. Hydroponic farming typically doesn’t use pesticides on crops, either.
“In the first trial of its kind, his researchers worked with a group of Syrian refugees at the Zaatari camp, which serves as a shelter to many who are already experienced farmers themselves. They showed the study participants how to fill waste containers from around the camp with mattress foam and a carefully balanced nutrient solution. Seedlings were then planted straight into the foam so it could support the roots as the plant grew.
“Working closely with the refugees, the team successfully created ‘desert gardens’ that provide people in the camp with fresh herbs and vegetables, training opportunities, and longed-for greenery in a challenging desert,” the article says.