My 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:
- The acquisition of the solar desalination and water purification system USD 2,300 (2–3 months due to shipping)
- The acquisition of reverse osmosis membrane USD 1,000 (2–3 months due to shipping)
- Purchase of water storage tanks USD 300 (2 weeks)
- Purchase of water quality testing apparatus USD 300 (2–3 months due to shipping)
- Purchase of material for closed hydroponics system USD 600 (1 month)
- 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]gmail.com
The content, structure and grammar are at the discretion of the author only.
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