GFAR blog

YAP proposal #390: Purifying Sea and Polluted Water for Hydroponics (Julia Parris, Trinidad and Tobago)

20151008_115658My name is Julia Parris and agriculture is my passion. I am 29 years old, live in St James, Trinidad and Tobago, and am currently employed as an Agricultural Research Officer at the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries.

My bachelor’s degree was in Agriculture and Environmental and Natural Resource Management while my master’s degree was in Crop Protection. My interest lies mainly in water resources and plant breeding.

Climate change is one of the factors that affect both agriculture and the environment. Water resource management is an issue that is problematic for the Caribbean.

There are many great ideas, like producing drought-tolerant accessions, but we may not be able to escape the fact that large quantities of water are needed for agriculture. The competing use of water by other sectors has to be managed but also research is needed to develop innovative strategies to alleviate the stress placed on this dwindling resource.

Over, the years I have noticed that in our dry season we experience drought like conditions and in the rainy season there is not enough rainfall to replenish fresh water sources.

When you think of the Caribbean, the vision that comes to mind is the sea and sun. However, a very real issue facing the Caribbean is the lack of fresh water for agriculture. Water is so near but still so far. How can we overcome this shortage of water in the Caribbean? As I live near the sea, the solution was literally staring me right in the face: we can use sea water.

Is it feasible to remove the salt from sea water using the sun?

I decided to test my theory by making a homemade very small scale desalination device. This was simply constructed by using a large bowl, a cup, clear plastic wrap and a stone. The cup was placed in the centre of bowl and then sea water was poured in the bowl. Clear plastic wrap was used to secure the top of the bowl and the stone was placed in the centre just over the cup. This was placed in the sun for several hours.

The process is initiated when the sea water heats up it would evaporated and then condense on the clear plastic wrap and will drip into the cup. The quantity of water collected was small and further testing is needed to determine if it is fit for irrigation. Similarly, this water purification method can be used to clean polluted water sources.

I propose to utilize this water in a closed hydroponics system would where water quality could be measured and maintained. A closed hydroponic system would be able to grow vegetables which would be greatly affected by the heat stress. I have also built a small vertical hydroponic closed system to grow more plants in a limited space.

However, one problem still remained, how to produce the quantity of water required for the closed hydroponic system.

Then it hit me: solar panels. I would then be able to collect sufficient solar energy which would then heat water and start the water purification process. I

n recent years there have been many advances made towards small scale and portable water purification equipment. As such it would be more cost effective to purchase one of these equipment than try to build one on my own.

The purification system I am proposing would consist of a solar water purifier and a reverse osmosis membrane. These two pieces of equipment can all be obtained commercially and be used to purify sea water and polluted water sources.

The funding given by this opportunity would be used to establish the use of sea water and polluted water in a hydroponic system.

I hope the success of this initiative will inspire young agricultural professionals in the Caribbean to look for innovative ways to tackle issues affecting their respective countries. My hope that this project would be a template that can be replicated throughout the Caribbean. Mostly importantly I want to successfully utilize sea water and polluted water for agriculture.

The budget entails the following:

  1. The acquisition of the solar desalination and water purification system USD 2,300 (2–3 months due to shipping)
  2. The acquisition of reverse osmosis membrane USD 1,000 (2–3 months due to shipping)
  3. Purchase of water storage tanks USD 300 (2 weeks)
  4. Purchase of water quality testing apparatus USD 300 (2–3 months due to shipping)
  5. Purchase of material for closed hydroponics system USD 600 (1 month)
  6. Installation of the solar desalination and purification closed hydroponic system USD 500 (1 month after all equipment have been purchased)


Blogpost and picture submitted by Julia Parris (Trinidad and Tobago): juliacparris[at]

The content, structure and grammar are at the discretion of the author only.


This post is published as proposal #390 of “YAP” – our “Youth Agripreneur Project”.

The first selection of the winners will be based on the number of comments, likes and views each proposal gets.

As a reader, you can support this speaker’s entry:

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Have a look at the other “YAP” proposals too!

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“YAP” is part of the #GCARD3 process, the third Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development.


18 thoughts on “YAP proposal #390: Purifying Sea and Polluted Water for Hydroponics (Julia Parris, Trinidad and Tobago)”

  1. Weather in the Caribbean countries have drastically changed over the last 2 to 3 years and we do have some evidence of longer dry season spells with little rain to replenish our dams and reservoirs. Due to our heavily industrialised country and fall in oil prices, there is a dire need for more research into bringing simple agriculture into each person’s home to at least help food sustainably as there is also a rise in cost in produce due to these times of drought. It would be really great if funding can be provided for a small county island to help with this research. It would also be great if more funding can be provided even for the use of equipment to even convert gray water to good usable water for these small agricultural uses.

    Very great idea!

    1. Hi, thank you for you comment, I also do research in breeding. I found that even though we can develop more drought tolerant accessions we still may be seriously underestimating the severity of the dry season. We must find ways to access water or food production will decrease significantly in the Caribbean.

      1. I support Julia Pariss thesis on Hydroponics systems in Trinidad and Tobago ,it’s about time the Government
        integrate this idea into our community .

  2. This project is possible! I’ve seen this tech before and I am happy to see it being brought to our home country! All the best and get those comments!

  3. I believe that this project would be feasible in our country. It would drastically drop our imports and aid our economy. Very good idea!

  4. Thank you. I think we need to face these issues head on. As populations are expected to increase we need to secure local food sources.

  5. All Gods Blessings on this Project. Looking forward to see the rewards later on down the road.

  6. This is a great project/ idea especially for Caribbean countries and small island countries that experience drought like weather. With climate change affecting the weather, this type of farming can help a lot of the challenges Caribbean countries faces. Thumbs up!!

  7. Very good proposal by Julia Parris, I do think that this can be very beneficial for our country, good luck hope you will be one of the participants chosen so that this project can be done.

  8. I have known julia for many years and she is one of those people who can make a positive change in this country. She not only has a degree and masters from UWI and years of experience in the field of agriculture she also has the love and passion for the field.
    When she gets this grant for her project i’m sure we will hear from her with another great argicultural plan.

  9. Very good proposal Julia Parris, will really like to see this done in our country it can be very beneficial for us, good luck to you I do hope you will be one of the participants chosen so that you can make this a reality here.

  10. Great Proposal to alleviate a major problem at this time. It would be beneficial to our country and the rest of the Caribbean. Hope your are given the change to make a difference. All the best.

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