ALA Alum, Fatouma Fall (ALA Alum, Senegal) is introducing hydroponics to the Sahel community. Fatouma shares how their journey began and what they hope to achieve with their venture.
“In 2021, we (Fatou and her friend Leo) decided to spend time in Senegal to connect with local farmers. Over the course of four 300-km bike rides to the North, Leo had over 50 conversations with Senegalese farmers. It was not an easy ride as Leo experienced the harsh climate conditions on the road. Yet through the environmental challenges, he learnt about the farmers’ difficulties in getting access to clean water. Those trips inspired him to work on the first hydroponics prototype in our backyard. A couple of months later, Goodness Green was born as the first NGO dedicated to the adoption of hydroponics agriculture in Sahel.”
“What we see is that hydroponics agriculture will successfully alleviate the climate uncertainty, water usage, low yield, and pest issues that Sahel vegetable farmers faced. It will also help reduce risk and increase the return on investment for agribusiness investors.”
“We want to normalize this practice in the region by creating a large network of vegetable farmers and agribusiness investors who will experience 80-300X water savings, 3-5X crop yield with better quality of produce, and year-round production. We successfully built our first prototype in our patio. We have even had friends and family over to dine with the fresh lettuce and arugula grown in water, soil-free and insect-free. My goodness it was delicious!”
“We are finishing our second prototype which is a bigger system that will recycle more water and harmonize with the sensors to create all sorts of quality information about the plants’ development. This kind of automation has been a success!”
“What we find challenging is the Research and Development. We typically face temperatures over 30C, coupled with humidity levels above 80%. This is tough on the nascent vegetable plants and it easily explains why most vegetable production in Africa comes to a stop during the rainy season. We are exploring different cooling methods to solve this issue, which is why we want to build a laboratory to produce and open-source new scientific knowledge on this matter.”
“What we find laborious is the pursuit of quality supplies and technology. The sensors we import from Europe. Buying the seeds and minerals locally has been a hit or miss operation. We have imported 50% of the time, and that’s slow and costly. As a result, we started mixing nutrients and creating homemade solutions! The exciting exercise of building a reliable network of suppliers who offer competitive prices lies ahead. From our studies of how other developing countries adopted hydroponics (South Africa, Kenya, Bolivia, Colombia), we know this challenge is completely solved when our network of hydroponics growers hits a critical mass (+100).
“The next frontier is to establish a 100 square meters hydroponics laboratory. This is why we are fundraising $30k by August 31st through individuals and foundations that support agribusiness or STEM.”