The Agriponic project was born in a logic of sharing experiences in Siciliy and Tunisia for the promotion of innovative crops, based on the main guidelines at European level in terms of sustainability and technological innovation.

The search path is based on soil-less techniques of agricultural production without substrate in closed loop. The project led to the creation of an aeroponic greenhouse with the experimental cultivation of aromatic plants, vegetables and herbs, which are placed on special conduit with perforated bases that support plant and roots.

They have been pushed to grow in harsh environments, and obtained excellent results in terms of product quantity, quality and environmental issues.

On the one hand the production is multiplied about 50 times if compared to the traditional methods, on the other hand it is guaranteed the healthiness of products that do not contain pesticides. Finally, the consumption of water, fertilizers and nutrients is reduced to the essentials.

Objectives and beneficiaries

Objectives :

- Protecting of the environment: reducing the use of water for irrigation and of chemicals in greenhouses;

- Protection of soil and water resources;

- Dissemination of the Aeroponic culture;

- Upgrading human resources competences in agriculture;

- Improved productivity of crops in international markets;

- Diffusion of new technologies with high productivity in a sustainable way.

The project seeks to find solutions to different needs and therefore beneficiaries:

- The crisis facing the world of the farms in the Mediterranean Sea Basin that cannot survive in competition with large industrial companies;

- Possibility to allow and transfer the Agriponic System and improve it in the agricultural sector of the arid and semiarid territories in the Mediterranean Sea Basin;

- Aeroponic technique gives the consumers the opportunity to find in the market, in every period of the year, healthy and traceability products;

- Aeroponic responds to the needs of the environment, consumers, the market and the need to feed the world. Those benefits, in the face of financial investments, led the partners to transfer the knowledge of those technologies, which should be more accessible and feasible, as it requires know-how and technology investments.

Strong points of the practice

Through the aeroponic cultivation there is the creation of a protected environment where plants have no exposition to pests and pathogens, with an increase in the level of oxygenation of the root system, a speeding up the phenological stages of plant development, and with no risks for the development of fungal groups or the formation of algae.

Main project result is the tranfer of knowledge and skills in the Mediterranean area (where farmers practice traditional agriculture in greenhouses) to go towards an integrated soilless agricultural and high-tech production process, powered by green energy and without any kind of non-reusable waste.

Such techniques grow in eco-friendly greenhouses that guarantees: water savings efficiency; absence of contamination of aquifers; traceability and safety of the products; compression of emissions; drastic reduction of energy consumption; increase in quantity and quality of production; healthy products.

Expected results and benefits for climate change adaptation and mitigation

- Broad participation of the agricultural economic and social enterprises in the events organized by the project.

- Interest in agriculture and the academic results of the pilot greenhouse in Tunisia.

- Involvement of other public institutions in the training and information seminars, as the Regional Department of Agricultural Resources that gave feedback for the involvement of enterprises for next funding program for regional development 2014-2020.

- Collaboration with secondary schools in Ragusa and University in Manouba (Research Centre) which has led to the launch of apprenticeships and internships for students in farms.

- Stimulus to research and experimentation for the Institutes involved in the implementation phase of the project to perform a laboratory demonstration of the aeroponics technology.

- Active involvement of enterprises for on-site technical visits to farms in Ragusa with experiences on soil-less substrate crops that have interacted with the engineers and experts of the project.

The Agriponic System does not use the land and does not require cycles of rest or land rotation, even forced, against the emergence of pathogens related to crops repetitive. Even the preventive treatments of fumigation against pest aphids on the land is no longer needed, especially treatments based on methyl bromide (BM), now banned by the European standards.

The plant, which grows in sanitized environment, requires no antifungal treatments or pesticides, thereby overcoming the constraints introduced by the EU regulations.

The plant has the characteristics of overall quality, being able to control the climate external indicators not only in the surface but also in the roots.

No residues of fertilization are dispersed in the environment, nor is the problem of the recovery of substrate. Water and nutrients are reduced to the necessary, through nebulization and even not released into the environment, but are recovered in conduit.

Replicability potential of the practice

The partner collaborated with the Technical and Agrarian Secondary Institutes in Modica and Ragusa allowing to form long-lasting partnerships.

Partners has established strong partnerships with the University of Sassari and University of Catania and CSEI for the data monitoring in the pilot greenhouse in Tunisia and to develop such experimentation in Ragusa too, since farmers and professionnels are interested in the economic and environmental benefit of aeroponic technology.

Several factors suggest that in the future a substantial development of soil-less cultivation is increasing because lands are stressed due to excessive crops intensification and desertification. In Belarus it seems to be the only technique able to decouple the radioactive contamination of the soil, allowing the production of “clean” crops.

[Editor's Note: All information published as submitted by the author(s). Minor edits may have been made to increase readability and understanding.]