"Examining water, agriculture, and wet waste"
Sean Maciel - Miguel Sanchez Enkerlin - Nathan Wang - Beatris Bogomilova - Felix Cheong - Myles McCaulay - Ashley Pacheco - Sabrina Leung

November 4, 2009

Container Agriculture in Mexico City

By Miguel Sanchez Enkerlin

As a result of the droughts on the Mexican countryside, food prices have gone up, something which is logically inconvenient for those in the city living under the poverty line (the majority). In 2001 a group of around 20 Non-Governmental Organizations, by the name of ANADEGES, launched a project to develop a system for the people to grow their own food and hence become autonomous. The aims of the project were to create the most affordable and healthy supply of food possible, for this to be achieved the new technology had to require little to no infrastructure investment, require no chemicals, require little to no land, and be light enough to be cultivated on rooftops. By amateur experimentation of trial and error, which took over 3 years. The technology developed does not only meet these aims, but also creates a system to recycle certain garbage’s. Drainless containers, between 18 and 20 liters in capacity, 4/5 of the containers are filled with recycled leaves or grass clippings, the other 5th is good soil, where the seeds will be embedded. Holes are drilled just above the bottom to allow drainage while keeping a water reservoir for the plant. This composition makes the container much lighter. The issue of fertilization was perhaps the most clever solution; urine. Chemical fertilizers had an additional cost and relatively ineffective, particularly in the container farming, whereas urine was organic, domestically made, and much more effective. The immensely useful fertilizer was given a fancier name, liquid organic fertilizer (LOF). The high nitrogen content in urine was immensely beneficial, however phosphorus and potassium could not be found organically, and are being temporarily supplied chemically.

Data was collected in the years after the technology was released, found how effective the container farming was. Overall, plants grew faster, bigger and healthier, yielding superior crops to those yielded by conventional agricultural techniques. Addressing the poverty and the cities massive water needs, the container farming not only provided cheap food for the poor, but actually used much less water as well. However, most fruit bearing plants were not successively grown. Another notable find was that the plants were far more resistant to insects pests and diseases.

Of course this container technology is very simple if you have hundreds of dollars to buy containers and fertilizers, which are not as effective as your own urine, but the purpose of the project was to provide this technology for the poor people living in the slums of Mexico City. The Project has gained support from private benefactors and some companies; a Mexican supermarket chain has pledged to donate containers it no longer uses to the project. Although the technology is still under development, there are hundreds of families already benefiting from its genius and cost effective nature; the development shows that a lot can come of what would seem like waste, additionally it conserves water for the enormous city, something which could possibly, or rather hopefully, restore the water supplies in the areas surrounding the city, saving cattle and crops.


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