Here is how Oman can grow more food with less water
October 11, 2017 | 9:14 PM
by Gautam Viswanathan, [email protected]
With a capacity of 28 litres and a warranty of 10 years, WaterBoxx helps grow trees 30 per cent faster than they would in the wild. Photo-Shabin E

Muscat: An Omani company has decided to spearhead an initiative to help turn Oman green, and fight desertification in the Sultanate.

Ample Harvest, which is part of the Al Saleh group of companies, is coordinating efforts with Dutch inventor Peter Hoff, to bring to Oman his device called the WaterBoxx, which helps conserve water that would be otherwise lost due to evaporation.

With a capacity of 28 litres and a warranty of 10 years, WaterBoxx helps grow trees 30 per cent faster than they would in the wild.

“The WaterBoxx has an opening at the bottom, which allows us to place it around the tree,” said Ivan Shelby, general manager for Ample Harvest.

“There is a wick at the bottom that slowly leeches water into the soil, and the roots of the tree can then absorb this water and grow.”

“There is hardly any water lost here due to evaporation, because the top of this box is sealed, and that means there is a microclimate in here that keeps it cooler in the daytime and warmer at night,” he added. “There are also inclined grooves fitted into the lid, which allows condensation to collect on top and drip into the box, so that helps save water as well. It doesn’t rain very often in Oman, but when it does, the box can collect also.”

The slow water release of the WaterBoxx is targeted at 50 millilitres per day, which over time leads to the creation and replenishment of groundwater sources in the soil, leading in the long-term to a nutrient-rich environment that can sustain and develop life on its own.

“Most of the WaterBoxx clients are in South America, because the governments there are really keen to end desertification and reverse deforestation,” added Shelby.

“Here in Oman, we’ve conducted experiments with different government entities, such as the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources and the Dhofar Municipality, over the last four years to show that this system actually works, so now we are looking for large-scale long-term contracts. We’ve already received a letter from the government, which says this actually does work and is sustainable.”

“It’s about making Oman a sustainable nation to grow indigenous plants, because that is what we are focused on at the moment,” he explained. “We grow tamarisk, acacia, oleander, agave, neem and sidr trees among many others, but it’s also important to know where you can grow what tree. Acacia and agave will thrive in the desert, but many others will only grow in certain environments.”

“If you look at the hotels and all of these landscaping projects, they need a constant source of irrigation, so the water cannot just be turned off one day,” added Shelby. “With these indigenous plants, though, they will thrive in local environments, so once they have grown for a certain while in the WaterBoxx; we take them out of there and put them back in the natural environment. Once you change the wick at the bottom, you can then use it for another tree.”

With Oman looking to expand and diversify its economic output through the Tanfeedh initiative, Loay Al Jabri, sales and marketing manager for Ample Harvest, is also looking forward to seeing how the WaterBoxx, and their new offering, the GrowBoxx, will help contribute to it.

“The WaterBoxx is made from plastic and priced at OMR10, but the GrowBoxx, which will come here by December, is biodegradable, lasts for a year, and can be used to grow fruit and vegetables because it is divided into five segments, from which you can grow crops. We think it’ll only cost about two to three rials.”

“When people first saw this, they could not believe it was real,” added Al Jabri. “But we are using all the resources now so we have to create something for the future. People in Oman need to change with the times and adopt better, scientifically proven methods of sustaining the environment.”

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