Addressing the need for food and fodder security in Uganda requires the ability to increase agricultural output. This will require adopting more advanced technological systems which will cover the demand while utilizing lower cost and reduced natural resource consumption. Developing countries with specific reference to Uganda struggle the most with food and fodder insecurity as a result of several factors such as: climate change (drought and/or floods); pests and diseases; land and labour shortage; high cost and/or poor quality inputs and lack of information on improved technologies and innovations.
With the rise in climate change, there will be a direct effect on availability of food and fodder through its increasingly adverse impacts on crops and animal productivity. Uganda has begun to experience the effects of climate change which manifests as land degradation, low soil fertility, desertification, soil erosion and severe weather conditions; hence the need for climate smart soilless farming as a medium for sustainable food and fodder production.
What is soilless farming?
Soilless farming in simple terms is growing of crops without soil. It is important to note that soilless farming is not a way to replace soil but rather to complement soil. There are different methods of soilless farming which are: Aeroponics, Aquaponics and Hydroponics.
Aeroponics Farming System
Aeroponics is the process of growing plants without submersing the roots in soil or water. The roots of the plants are suspended in the air and sprayed with nutrient solution. This process limits water use and conserves soil resources. It is pesticide free and is an excellent farming technique for areas with limited space.
In aeroponics systems, seeds are “planted” in pieces of foam stuffed into tiny pots, which are exposed to light on one end and nutrient mist on the other. The foam also holds the stem and root mass in place as the plants grow.
Advantages of Aeroponics
· Aeroponic systems are extremely water-efficient. These closed-loop systems use 95 percent less irrigation than plants grown in soil. And since the nutrients are held in the water, they get recycled, too.
Aeroponics is a more sustainable method of farming as well as the key to Uganda’s land shortage problem. With traditional cultivation measures, evaporation causes the waste of a lot of water. In aeroponics farming, the roots directly absorb almost all the water vapour by the process of osmosis, so the process uses much less water than more traditional methods. Estimates determine that aeroponics saves 90 percent of water compared to traditional farming methods.
· Aeroponic crops also grow in half the time it would take for them to grow in soil and yields can be approximately 30 percent larger.
· It takes place indoors, aeroponics makes it possible for crops to grow at any time of the year, or year-round, irrespective of climate conditions, which could be a significant game-changer for Uganda with continuous droughts.
Drawbacks of Aeroponics
· Aeroponics is very expensive and highly technical, so it is not the easiest farm startup, nor is it the easiest system to keep maintained.
What can you grow with aeroponics?
Aeroponics systems are primarily used for leafy greens, root crops, strawberries, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Other vegetable crops are possible but have more complex nutrient requirements. Fruiting shrubs and trees are impractical in aeroponics systems due to their size.