10 May 2017
Cairo, Egypt
Organic Food and Agriculture

Having survived droughts and a growing population by the highly fertile Nile Delta, while almost 95% of the country is desert, Egypt is bound to run out of freshwater resources. To this end, some entrepreneurs are using technology as a platform for change in the agricultural industry while solving some of these problems.

One company proved successful is agrimatic, a local startup born three years ago. The startup developed a soilless agriculture system, substituting soil with a water-based environment and saving up to 90% of the water used in traditional agriculture.

Changing the world one crop at a time:

The above method is known as Hydroponics, and when merged with aquaculture (farming of fish), as Aquaponics. The cycle starts at water tanks, where fish are bred and mechanical filters turn their waste (ammonia) into nutrition (nitrates) for pre-seeded plants. Plants float on water inside greenhouses with their roots submerged in the nutrient solution that after being sterilized returns clean to the fish tanks to close the cycle.

 

Their business model is highly collaborative all the way along the production process. “Besides having our own in-house aquaculture specialists, we collaborate with multiple commercial breeding stations, academic and research institutes to share best practices,” explains Business Developer at agrimatic Nouran ElSaid.

Along with a solid foundation of scientific research, agrimatic keeps an eye on the local fish demand. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), tilapia and mullet together account for 85% of the total aquaculture production in Egypt.  “We use tilapia and mullet not only because they are the most suitable for aquaponic systems, but the types most commonly consumed in the local wholesale market we currently supply”, added ElSaid.  

Their vegetable output portfolio mostly includes leafy products; a wide range of lettuce, arugula, spinach, and cabbage, among others. But an urge for constant innovation seems to guide agrimatic. “Our R&D team is currently experimenting and developing new products to expand our portfolio outside leafy products,” ElSaid said.

ElSaid added that the technological development they introduced (currently patent pending) saves up to 99% on water and 94% on electricity in comparison to traditional agriculture.

 

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In parallel, the start-up works on the commercial side of the business. “We are in the midst of acquiring the certifications required for international market while conducting discussions with multiple potential partners on a global scale,” ElSaid pointed out.

When asked about the initiative and the need for it in Egypt, Deputy of the Agricultural Research Center Ala’a Azzouz said, “The  soil is shrinking and resources are dwindling so, we are in dire need for sustainable techniques such as resorting to a water-based environment.”

An invitation to be the change you wish to see:

Besides challenging the idea of agriculture as a low tech, family oriented sector, agrimatic offers multiple ways to be part of the project.

There are three main ways to do it: as part of the team, as an investor or as a volunteer.

Through the website, the team is featured as a small community, with titles like Governor, Mayor and Citizen, instead of the commonly used job title descriptions. This gives a hint of their working philosophy. “We are always looking to grow our team – experience is only secondary. The road to the future is built with the right passion, mindset, and background,” the website read.

 

agrimatic also provides alternative investment opportunities, with attractive rates of return and the chance to own a farm without possessing the land or background in farming. “We have received several investments, mainly from individual agents, though organizations have the opportunity to invest,” said ElSaid. “Money is important, but not as a value in itself, and is subjected to agrimatic’s guiding principles: “We only make room for rounds of investments according to our expansion plan strategy,” she explained.

The startup also welcomes everyone interested in different disciplines. “We have a fairly large team with different specializations and encourage people to join us to learn more. It can be the technical part, ranging from agriculture, aquaculture, botany, chemistry, microbiology to mechanical/industrial water engineering, or the business part, including market research, marketing, sales, PR and business development”, ElSaid said.

The company has also recently conducted several internship experiences for students and recent graduates that proved to be very popular. While asked about possible reasons for this, ElSaid answered: “They get to learn a lot: being an active part of a rapidly growing entity, while doing work that is actually used in our operations. This is not very common in other internships.”

Finally, they are open to visits from schools and universities, where students can see the system and learn more about the farm onsite.

agrimatic hopes to solve in the future many of the root causes of food scarcity not only in Egypt and the MENA region, but the whole world and beyond – employing the technique on other planets. Maybe soon, Life on Mars will be more than just a Bowie´s song.

Web: http: //www.agrimaticfarms.com/  

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/agrimaticfarms

Twitter: https://twitter.com/agrimaticfarms

"agrimatic" Organic food and agriculture
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