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Growing crops without soil

Growing crops without soil

Samson Ogbole has emerged a wizard in agriculture. In his native Nigeria, there is a shortage of land needed to provide food for its ever-growing population of 190 million. There are only 30 million hectares of farmland cultivation annually, short of the estimated 78.5 million needed for food production. It is this significant problem that Ogbole is tackling with an unconventional method of farming that involves growing crops in the air. Aeroponics, as this method is known as, is a process of growing plants in the air without the use of soil. Ogbole first got involved in soilless farming in 2014 and two years later founded PS Nutraceuticals, a company that "implements cutting-edge agricultural technologies for efficiency in food production to ensure food security." "Soilless growing entails removing the soil component, bringing in substitutes and applying fertiliser to enable the plants to grow," Ogbole says. The advantages of this innovation are manifold according to him. "Growing without soil means you can grow [crops] any time of the year," he adds. "With soilless farming, we have been able to push for what you call urban farming, where we now have farms in cities such that we are able to cut off the middlemen and marketers," he says. "And with soilless farming, we have been able to eliminate the pathogens that exist in the soil that naturally affect these crops." Only 46 per cent of Nigerian soil is fertile to grow crops and as such the country must take a step towards self-sustainability in food production, as he believes the "war of the future will be fought through agriculture." It's therefore imperative, he says, that technology plays a more prominent role in agriculture for a variety of reasons. "We're bringing in technology into agriculture so that the youth can actually see this as a viable option. "We also want to ensure that food production is no longer seasonal, and bringing in smart sensor technologies into agriculture so that you're able to get feedback from your plants." As a child, Ogbole wanted to be a doctor, but now armed with a degree in biochemistry, a master's degree, and a PhD, he wants to lead Nigeria on the path to increased food production. "The future of the economy is dependent on the few people who have bright ideas, that can think outside the box for us to latch on," he says. "Money does not solve problems; ideas do." Ogbole is now involved in programmes to encourage youths to engage in agriculture, based on the belief that "people will always eat." By thinking out of the box and successfully introducing soilless crops, Ogbole has brought about a revolution in agriculture.

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