It looks like an average grocery refrigerator. But this cooler uses hydroponic technology to grow vegetables right in store in Cairo, Egypt. The “Farmed Here” fridge seems like a win-win—allowing grocers and customers to go fresh—without the worry of expiration dates! (See Shelf Life: Use It or Lose It? on page ??)
Egyptian company Schaduf installed the hydroponic (literally “water” + “work”) fridge in a Cairo supermarket. The refrigerator runs on a no-soil system. Instead, it uses water supplemented with fertilizers and nutrients.
Schaduf offers smart farming solutions. The business name refers to an ancient Egyptian irrigation tool. A schaduf lifted water to irrigation canals. Schaduf’s website says the company aims to “lift water, sunshine, and life to barren concrete walls and roofs.” Not surprisingly, the company creates urban vegetation installations, often seen as rooftop or vertical wall gardens.
Now the company known for flora is putting down roots in the grocery store. Schaduf’s hydroponic fridge provides a possible solution for limiting food waste since veggies can be grown and harvested on site.
“Farmed Here” pumps water to feed its plants from tanks in the bottom of the fridge. The hydroponic device allows customers to buy fresh vegetables and take them home, roots and all. The just-picked veggies stay fresh longer—no plastic wrap involved.
“About 50% of vegetables in the supermarket are wasted because no one buys them. But in this system, the vegetables are planted until someone buys them, so [they don’t] go bad,” says Schaduf’s head of business development Malik Mohamed Tag El Din.
Even better, “When the customer takes one of the plants, it’s replaced by another,” says El Din.
According to Schaduf, the hydroponic system uses 90% less water than traditional farming. This is especially critical in Egypt, where water scarcity is a challenge.
Hydroponics can also help reduce pollution since vegetables don’t require transportation from farm to grocer.
Schaduf plans to expand the hydroponic fridge to other grocery stores. This green idea is likely to keep on growing.
Why? Ideas that help people to be good stewards of resources—both personal and public—are worth studying and sharing.