A new hydroponic growing system, growing directly in the supermarket

Hydroponic growing is becoming an increasingly popular method in urbanised centres such as metropolises. But in Cairo, a supermarket is bringing the technology directly onto its produce aisle and into direct contact with the customer.

Hydroponic cultivation – a method of growing certain plants in wet tubes without soil, with the addition of liquid fertilisers and nutrients – is becoming increasingly common in large built-up areas. But in Cairo, a supermarket is taking its produce aisle to a new level of freshness. Here, a hydroponic refrigerator grows different types of lettuce directly in the shop, ready to be bought directly by customers once the growth cycle is complete.

Schaduf, the responsible company, was founded in 2011 by Sherif and Tarek Hosny, two Egyptian brothers who were inspired by an ancient irrigation tool to bring food security and self-sufficiency to low-income communities. The Arabic word “schaduf” refers to an ancient irrigation tool, still used today by farmers in many countries, that raises water in irrigation canals to harvest crops. The duo started the business by selling rooftop installations to low-income families through repayable loans, while contracting the construction of the mini-rooftop farms to a manufacturer who completes the installation in a single day.

According to one report, this type of system requires 90 per cent less time to grow produce than a company from California-based Advanced Container Technologies. It is not yet clear whether customers have to pay more for extra-fresh produce or whether hydroponic set-ups reduce costs for retailers: they spend less on transport from farms, but are also responsible for growing the plants.

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