The Maldives is about an hour's flight south-west of Colombo, Sri Lanka. This beautiful country consists of more than 1,000 islands, each only about the size of a 9 hole golf course (approximately 50 ha.). More than 300,000 tourists visit this tropical paradise annually. Most of the food (an estimated US$30 million annually) has to be imported to provide for both tourists and the locals.
The main constraints regarding food production in the Maldives are:-
- the shortage of suitable land for agriculture.
- the soils that are allocated for crop production are very poor, being very sandy with poor moisture and nutrient retention.
- fresh water is limited and rainwater is the only source for agricultural application.
- well water is available for field applications, however, it is very high in salt (EC of 1 to 1.4) making it unsuitable for hydroponic use.
- rainfall is seasonal and often there is no rain for several months at a stretch. The annual rainfall averages about 100cm.
Given the abovementioned challenges, the Seagull Group selected the use of Autopot® Systems for their hydroponic vegetable production of a mixed crop of cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuces, herbs and Chinese broccoli. The key reasons behind this decision is Autopot®'s water efficiency (due to the scarcity fresh water), zero run-off (less environmental impact on the sensitive corals) and simplicity.
A 1,000 sq.m greenhouse using Autopot® Systems was implemented. Two large concrete reservoirs were erected next to the greenhouse to collect all the rainwater from the greenhouse run-off. The amount of rainwater collected was sufficient to meet all the fresh water requirements for the crops.
The Seagull Group is now able to produce substantial supplies of fresh vegetables for themselves as well as several other holiday resorts.