Water Saving Technologies: Film Farming

I recently ran across an article on an amazing new technology being introduced in the farming industry called film farming.  This system was released by Dubai-based owners Agricel back in March, but has been in development for a number of years.  Realizing that the world will be facing water and food shortages in the coming years Agricel wanted to come up with a solution, and it looks like they did.  This technology reduces the amount of water and fertilizer needed in plants which means crops can be grown in water scarce regions or regions with poor quality soil.  Let’s take a look at what goes into making up film farming.

Ok…so this is going to get a little technical for a minute while I do my best to explain this system.  After reading if you’re a little confused take a look at the video below that may help.  With the film farming system the plants are grown on a hydromembrane invented by Prof Dr Yuichi Mori of Waseda University in Japan which is made up of water-soluble polymer and hydrogel.  This part of the system is the “film”, and it basically looks like a plastic bag.  The hydromembrane sucks up the water and nutrients that are fed through a drip system and then the plants develop thin, dense roots that attach to the hydromembrane and feed the plant.  That’s basically it. My explanation may make it sound fairly simple, but a lot of work went into developing this technology, and it’s fairly complex.  So now that we know how the system works what are the benefits?

There are so many benefits to this system.  Because of the way these plants are being grown they need to increase their production of sugars and amino acids in order to absorb the water.  The byproduct of this is produce that is sweeter and more vitamin rich.  Great!  Better tasting food that is better for us! Another benefit of the hydromembrane is that it cannot be penetrated by pathogens, and therefore is resistant to bacteria and viruses.  What that means is that no pesticides are needed in this process, so all of the food is organic and safe, and there is no pollution.  Also, because of the way that the nutrients are being fed to the plants this process requires 80% less fertilizer than traditional farming while producing a 50% jump in production.  Another huge benefit is that with this system you can grow crops pretty much anywhere.  One thing that I should mention is that a greenhouse is required, but although this is a cost greenhouses are space savers and, like I said, make it possible to grow produce anywhere in the world.  Actually, the costs of this system are comparable to traditional soil-based farming, and cheaper than another soil-less farming practice, hydroponics.  Now for the big benefit that got me excited; this system uses 90% LESS water than traditional soil-based farming!  Knowing that across the world farming uses 70% of all the freshwater this reduction has the potential to free up a lot of that water which in turn will allow a lot more people to get access to clean water and allow ecosystems that were robbed of their water to thrive.  If all farms around the world switched to this technology it would mean that the amount of water that farming uses would drop from 70% to 7%!  Think of the possibilities if we had 63% more freshwater to use…

The benefits go even further if you think about it.  In places like the UAE it is very hard to grow most crops because of the arid climate.  A produce like cherry tomatoes is therefore very expensive there because it needs to be imported.  But with this technology you can now grow cherry tomatoes in the middle of the desert which means that the cost goes down, and more people can afford to buy healthy produce.  To take it further, now you’ve started a completely new industry, and that means jobs for people, which means a better economy and livelihood, which means happy people, and isn’t that what we want for everyone?

Currently this system is being used in the 180 farms in Japan, has just been introduced in the UAE, and has been tested in China, Pakistan, Nigeria, and the UK (I was disappointed to not see testing in the US).  Hopefully with all of these benefits, and a comparable cost, this technology will take off.  If it does this will be a big game changer for the world.  For more information you can visit Agricel’s website at www.agricel.co/.  Thanks for reading, and please leave a comment and let me know what you thought.

Water Saving Technologies: Film Farming
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11 thoughts on “Water Saving Technologies: Film Farming

  • August 29, 2012 at 9:58 pm
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    A very good information you have posted. First of all i would like to convey my sincere thanks to you .I will go through your web site.Once again i would like to convey my THANKS.

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  • August 29, 2012 at 10:00 pm
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    iTS INTERESTING AND I WANTED TO THIS TECHNOLOGY IN OUR DROUGHT PRONE AREAS.

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    • August 30, 2012 at 11:41 am
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      Hi Krishnan. Thanks for the comments. I was interested in what part of the world you live in? Thanks-Brian

      Reply
  • September 10, 2012 at 12:06 pm
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    How much water does it take to produce the thin films and are they reusable?

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    • September 12, 2012 at 5:06 pm
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      Hi Dawn,
      I couldn’t find any information on how much water it takes to produce the films, but that’s a very good question. I’m also not sure if they’re reusable. I just emailed one of the companies that makes the hydromembrane and if I get any information from them i’ll respond to your comment again.

      Reply
  • September 11, 2012 at 11:39 pm
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    This is an interesting information. I had seen some ploymer substances which expand 100 times theie volume and absorb a lot of water. The question is how much water will they release back to the plants. If the plants can draw water from these polymers (90% as claimed by some one) then it has many potential uses and can be used even in high rainfall areas, where the top soil layers dry up in non rainy seasons and adversely affect production from perrineal crops. This polymer can help in such situations also. I will be thankful if more details are provided about the product and where it is available and the cost etc. Thanks again for sharing this information

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    • September 12, 2012 at 5:39 pm
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      Hi Yezzu,

      Film farming is more than just the polymer substance; it’s a complete system. You can find a lot of information on how the system works on this website: https://www.agricel.co . As far as I know you need to install this system in a greenhouse environment. The bottom layer of the system is a waterproof barrier, so no water is wasted (maybe a little to evaporation). I can not find any information on cost, but if you go to the website I just gave you and then email them i’m sure you could get that info. Unfortunately because this is a fairly new technology they havent yet developed something that can be used in small scale applications, but hopefully they will soon.

      When you start talking about applying it as granuals i dont think it’s going to be as efficient, and will not really benefit the system. That may be something that can be done separately in an outdoor growing area and would be good for saving water but it will not give you the benefit of not having to use any pesticides or fertilizers, something that the hydromembrane used in film farming does.

      Thanks for the comment,
      Brian

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  • September 11, 2012 at 11:41 pm
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    Thanks for the information. If not as a film which may be costlier at oresent, can they be applied as granuals, may be slightly away from the main root zone

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  • May 10, 2014 at 10:25 pm
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    Wow…. it’s really great!! I live in Bangladesh. I am a Agriculturist and Climate Change Expert. I would like to know more about the technology. I want do a research regarding this technology in Bangladesh. How can you help me in this regard? Kindly let me know with details.

    Reply
  • March 11, 2015 at 9:07 am
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    Hello,
    It is wonderful technology and a salute to the innovation. I would like to know whether the parent company has identified somebody in India to expand their business. Obviously i am interested in adopting this technology. I am from Southern part of India.

    Regards
    Prashant

    Reply

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