Growing food on old matrasses sounds like an ideal combination of food production and combatting waste. Especially in situations where new materials and growing techniques might be scarce, but where people are always coming and leaving, thus leaving behind their old matrasses. A new project by the University of Sheffield, named Desert Garden, is creating a growing facility using mattress foam.

Moaed Al Meselmani is the manager of the project

The site of the project is Zaatari, a large Syrian refugee camp in Jordan. Currently, 80,000 people live there, most of whom are children. The Desert Garden gives refugees living in the camp the opportunity to grow their own food, as it is not easy to come by fresh produce in the camp.

Tomato plants are grown inside the small farm setup

Creating a fresh start
“The families benefit from the fresh food, and in the meanwhile learn new skills and find a sense of purpose,” says Moaed Al Meselmani, manager of the project. A Syrian himself, he now works as a scientist at the University of Sheffield.

The technique of growing food in foam was invented by Tony Ryan, Professor of Chemical Chemistry, Duncan Cameron, Professor of Plant and Soil Biology and Moaed Al Meselmani a researcher at the University of Sheffield. They came up with the idea to use the pile of old mattresses in the camp as a replacement for the foams they were using in the lab. This idea turned out to be successful.

Cucumber plants 

Encouraging hydroponics in Africa
The team is currently busy raising funds for the Desert Garden, as the project needs funding to continue. Dr. Al Meselmani is also active as a hydroponics program consultant in Libya with the WFP (World Food Program). 

There, he aims to encourage people to adopt this technique and encourage the government to help and support farmers to start growing their own food hydroponically.

“We are introducing hydroponics to Libya to deal with desert soil and water shortage mostly. We are hoping that the Libyan government will adopt hydroponics to achieve food security in the country. After all, water limitation in every nation makes hydroponics an excellent solution.”

For more information:
Moaed Al Meselmani, Project manager