Eric Maundu, owner and founder of “Kijani Grows” (“Kijani” is Swahili for green), isn’t a farmer, he’s an engineer with a computer science degree from USA. Maundu himself ran from agriculture in his native Kenya- where he saw it as a struggle for land, water and resources. In the USA he felt the negative impacts of urbanization, industrial waste and traffic pollution on contamination of soils and degradation in land-water resources. In industrial/urban areas and cities, freeways, roads, light rail and parking lots so there’s not much arable land and the soil is contaminated. With these threats in mind he realized he could farm without soil, with little water via aquaponics and with possibilities to use “self-cleaning” and recycling as well as that he could apply his robotics background to farming. An amazing combination of: physics; chemistry; biology; ecology; and computer science in one system.
No soil, instead Maundu is growing plants using fish and circulating water. It’s called aquaponics- a gardening system that combines hydroponics (water-based planting) and aquaculture (fish farming). It’s been hailed as the future of farming: it uses less water (up to 90% less than traditional gardening), doesn’t attract soil-based bugs and produces two types of produce (both plants and fish)., i.e. a full meal!
Maundu- by being trained in industrial robotics- has taken the agricultural craft one step further and made his “aquaponics” smart. Using sensors (to detect water level, pH and temperature), microprocessors, relay cards, clouds and social media networks. Maundu has programmed his gardens to tweet when there’s a problem, e.g. not enough water or when there’s news, e.g. an over-abundance of food to share. With these smart solutions the same information can be shared with farmers in Iceland and China.” Maundu believes that by putting gardens online, especially in places where solar-powered gardens are totally off the grid), is the only way to make sure that farming remains viable to the next generation of urban youth.