The Future of Self-Watering
Hydrogels are just the latest example of how we are capturing and using some of nature’s abundant, renewable resources. Wind, solar, and hydropower are now mainstream. Hydrogel-infused soil that captures and uses natural humidity will be mentioned in similar breakthrough lists in less than a decade.
And it’s just in time. We’re losing farmland. Lack of soil is not the only issue; desertification and lack of water is becoming a huge factor. Water scarcity is forcing farmers to compete with cities, water recreation, and even wildlife for these resources.
Extreme weather has been altering rainfall patterns, and one of the effects is increased drought. Hotter weather and the resulting faster evaporation are limiting the amount of water for irrigation – just at a time we need more rain for farming to feed a growing world population.
But water is all around us in the form of vapor and humidity – 50,000 cubic kilometers in fact. If a significant portion of farming can rely on hydrogel soil technology, we won’t have to choose between fish and farms.
And it appears that hydrogels can also be infused with fertilizer and pesticides for slow, controlled release of these substances to further promote healthy, substantial crop yields.
Coming to Fields and Gardens Near You
Now that the concept of hydrogel soil has been proven, commercializing and scaling it will likely take 3-5 years. Once it’s mass produced, except in the most arid environments, we’ll see subsistence and commercial farms spring up around the world without the need for irrigation systems, pumping, and other water supply challenges. We’ll have more farmable land that requires less surface water.
Farmers around the world will rototill hydrogels into the soil in their fields. Small bags will be available at home gardening stores to mix with potting or gardening soil. We’ll apply it to our yards so we can throttle back watering frequency for our lawns.
Predictions for the future will certainly always be filled with headline-grabbing topics like space colonization, self-driving cars, and robotics. But the quality of our future may rely just as much or more on basic scientific breakthroughs like hydrogel soil that efficiently tap into nature and our existing natural resources.