A Mexican invention is allowing farmers around the world to grow crops in arid climates.
The invention is a biopolymer that retains nutrient-laced water for several months, opening new possibilities for farming in desert regions and other places where rain is scarce.
Developed by engineer Rafael Ríos Trejo, it is being tested and commercialized through his firm Dos Ríos in collaboration with the Institute of Technology and Higher Studies of Monterrey (ITESM) and the Autonomous University of Chapingo (UACh).
The product won Ríos the 2014 National Entrepreneur Prize of Mexico, and has since received support from the Mexico-United States Foundation for Science (Fumec).
Ríos’ company has successfully grown plants with its product on over 1,000 hectares of arid land not only in Mexico but in countries such as Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Chile.
To encapsulate water in a polymer, Ríos uses a combination of biodiesel waste, methane and carbon dioxide. Plants can then be nourished by the polymer for months on end, rainfall notwithstanding.
“We can achieve reforestation with the help of this polymer, which can be compared to the so-called Solid Rain,” the company’s public relations director told the newspaper La Crónica de Hoy. Another Mexican innovation, Solid Rain is a system in which solidified water is planted in crop fields.
Víctor Jiménez compared the use of the polymer to drip irrigation, but in this case the water is contained in a bag which is beneath the plant. With this process, he said, all the water is used, while 90% of it is lost in drip irrigation.
“The difference between our product and the one known as Solid Rain is that ours is organic . . . while the others use petroleum and lye. Our product poses no harm to the earth or the plants, and we’ve already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” he continued.
What was a successful laboratory product is now showing promising results in the field. After 18 months, farms in desert zones in Africa and Asia are starting to produce olive oil.
In the extreme deserts of the United Arab Emirates and in Chile, Dos Ríos has successfully grown fruit and trees that produce precious woods.
Now the Mexican firm is back on its home turf with trial runs of seasonal crops having begun in parts of Durango and Sonora.
“Our priority is to stop looking at greenhouse gases as part of the problem and start considering them as part of the solution, and for that we need investment, support and an innovative mindset and to adapt new technologies,” said Ríos.
To that end, the company is building a biotechnology research and innovation center in Durango.
Source: La Crónica de Hoy (sp)