- The thick slab is made from sand particles mixed with melted waste plastics, which form a solid and non-porous mass.
- The beauty about this innovation, says Chirchir, is that it is a good replacement for the more expensive polythene linings.
Are you in an area with porous soil (the one which is horrible holding water) yet you want to practise fish farming? Do not lose hope. A group of three students from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology have a solution that will help you actualize your dream of starting a fish farm. A plastic fused soil slab that does small wonders.
Brian Chirchir (22), Betty Maeda (21) and Marlene Saina (21) undertaking a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering, have developed a cheap plastic-sand fused slab that does not allow water to escape.
So how does the plastic fused soil slab work?
Chirchir explains that the thick slab is made from sand particles mixed with melted waste plastics, which form a solid and non-porous mass. And this is the slab a farmer places on the fish pond, laying several of them neatly on the soil to prevent seepage of water.
“The slab is made from plastic and sand which is strong, impervious and chemically inert. Through the above properties gained from the special bonding between plastic and sand, the material is able to hold a significant amount of water without losses through seepage,” Chirchir, the lead scientist says.
With those properties, he says, it is great for small scale farmers venturing into fish farming, irrigation or looking to store water (dams). The beauty about this innovation, says Chirchir, is that it is a good replacement for the more expensive polythene linings. While the polythene lining cost more than Sh200 per square metre, the plastic fused soil slab of the same size costs Sh20.
Another strong point of the innovation he says, is that it is durable and efficient. “In the case of fish ponds, the polythene lining used is a cheap substitute for the recommended geo-membrane but subject to wear and tear therefore, the plastic infused soil offers the quality of the geo-membrane, at a cheaper price.” The young engineer says the 15mm slab can last for more than 10 years, while the polythene have a shorter shelf life and also contribute to environmental pollution. But what inspired the trio to come up with the innovation? “We came up with this idea last year. We wanted to solve problems like water resource management in agriculture. Late last year, we started working on this new material. Coming up with a final prototype was laborious process. We had several hits and misses but we made it,” Chirchir says with confidence.
Before the students had their ‘Eureka Moment’, they had to contend with the challenge of determining the perfect ratios to achieve maximum strength and impermeability.
And now that they have hacked it, they say the next big step in this innovation is to commercialize the idea.
“We have finished the necessary tests and are now looking to start large scale production. We are yet to commercial it. We are facing challenges of funds which we are trying to get around. We hope a major investor will step in. But even with that challenge, we must admit the university has been very supportive,” says Chirchir. So for fish farmers who are interested in the slab, how soon will it be in the market and how much will it cost? “It is not yet in the market but, we anticipate that the material will be available in the market by next year.” Future plans?
“We intend to modify this material to make it more efficient and we also intend to develop more farming applications.”
Interested parties can reach the innovators on 0708 665203.
via Smart Harvest