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Young Emirati reaps fruits of sustainable farming with composting

Young Emirati reaps fruits of sustainable farming with composting
7 Dec 2023 09:58

SHAMA ABDULLA (ABU DHABI)

Agriculture was not an easy vocation for Abdullah Al Hosani when his father asked him to run their farm in Abu Dhabi. A myriad of challenges sprouted in his path, mainly lack of water resources and frequent disruption in rainfall. The farm’s soil got depleted by the frequent and excessive usage as it became unsuitable for planting due to continuous cucumber planting, which made the situation more challenging.

However, he was resolute not to give up and started looking for solutions to sustain the farm, fully unaware that another obstacle was standing in his way; the high cost of compost in the market. But that was not the end of the journey. “We faced challenges related to water scarcity and insufficient rainfall. Consequently, we sought alternative solutions to address the scarcity of water,” he told Aletihad.

As the farm had 16 greenhouses, it became increasingly costly to purchase compost to meet its growing needs amid increasing decline in water resources, forcing Al Hosani to explore the possibility of producing the compost domestically.

“I started thinking about how to make compost at home. I discovered a simple method using eggshells for calcium, vegetable peels from cucumber and potatoes, and banana peels for phosphorus. These ingredients serve as complete nutritional supplements for the soil,” he said.

“Next, we used cartons and paper that would otherwise end up in the trash. We collected used coffee grounds from coffee shops, placed them in barrels, and created ventilation. Then, we gradually added the mixture, spraying it with water every five days we stirred it. Within 45 days, the compost was ready…This was a success,” he added.

Al Hosani said that he tried his compost mix first on cactus, as they require less water. Gradually he carried on with this experiment, trying the compost on basil and seasonal flowers in summer and winter. Content with the result he applied the mixture to homegrown vegetables, mainly onions, tomatoes and eggplants.

He noted that compost absorbs moisture and retains moisture for an extended period, adding that the natural manure also aids in pest control.

Compost reduces waste and is also a good alternative to animal manure. The drawback of animal manure includes spreading of weeds, bacteria, and fungal diseases that can be transmitted through touch unless properly decomposed in the soil.

Additionally animal manure increases carbon emissions and produces an unpleasant odour, he said.

Looking Ahead

For the past three years, he has been experimenting with other types of agriculture, such as fermentation. Al Hosani noted that compost is sold in large quantities in Europe due to the vast agricultural lands in those countries.

“In the future, I plan for people to eat from my farm’s produce and buy the compost it generates. My ultimate goal in 10 years is to have my own factory,” he added.

According to Al Hosani, compost comes in various types and grades. The higher the mixture’s vegetable content, the higher the plant growth quality. He said that his aim is to help the country reduce waste and promote recycling.

“There needs to be comprehensive awareness in society that things should not be thrown in the trash because it burdens the country and entails significant costs for waste management,”Al Hosani concluded.

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