(Corrects title of speaker in 13th paragraph)
By Seham El Oraby
CAIRO Dec 14 Growing lettuce in the desert is
not most people's idea of how to make a success of farming, but
Amr Bassiouny believes he is on to something.
The 30-year-old chief executive of Egyptian Hydrofarms says
he is growing salad greens at his farm on the outskirts of Cairo
using 90 percent less water than traditional methods, and at the
same time obtaining better yields.
"This is important in Egypt because we have scarce water
resources, so you're able to grow large quantities with much
less use of resources," he told Reuters Television.
Hydroponics is farming in water instead of soil. Bassiouny
places his plants in pipes through which water and nutrients are
Egypt's population of more than 90 million is growing, and
agricultural land is shrinking due to illegal construction on
the fertile banks of the Nile and its delta, the country's
Unlicensed construction picked up pace after the 2011
uprising, with the government estimating that 90,000 acres
(36,400 hectares) of farmland were lost in the first three years
"We will be forced to move our farming to the desert, and
when we move to the desert, we will either use up all the
available water, so in 40 or 50 years we won't have any more
water and we will not be able to farm.
"Or, we can start looking for ways of growing larger
quantities by using the least amount of our resources as
possible," Bassiouny said.
Some say hydroponics was used as far back as the Hanging
Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient
world. That theory is unproven, but hydroponics adherents
believe the technology has stood the test of time.
Though costlier, hydroponics is attractive for present-day
Egypt, much of which is arid and unsuitable for traditional
Bassiouny hopes to start exporting to the Middle East as
water shortages get worse and traditional farming becomes more
"Even today, the water in desert wells is becoming too salty
and unsuitable for farming. So we need to find alternative
methods of farming, especially since we won't just be feeding
ourselves, but we will also be exporting to other countries."
Chief Commercial Officer Adel Shentenawy, 32, said he had
launched a social media campaign to explain the benefits of
"Hydroponics isn't a new idea, it's been around since the
time of the Pharaohs ... All we did was take this idea and added
technology, efficiency and productivity."
(Writing by Giles Elgood; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)