Dake Rechsand Fostering Sustainable Farming with Breathable Sand
Gulf Sustainability Gold Award Winner 2021 for Innovation in Sustainable Technologies, Dake Rechsand has developed innovative and transformative solutions in water conservation and sustainable farming.
The company’s breakthrough breathable sand technology that transforms barren desert sand into high-yield, arable land, along with its signature IDER water-harvesting range, is empowering Desert Farming and Water Conservation.
With a global presence that currently extends to the USA, the UAE, India, China and South Africa, the company is making a positive impact on food and water security in water-stressed regions.
In 2022 the company is launching a Carbon Sequestration program of 50 million trees in GCC region which includes Forestation and Food Forests.
Few days back, Sustainability Middle East (SME) interviewed Dake Rechsand (DK) CEO, Chandra Dake (CD) during which he shed light on this innovative technology and how this can faclitate sustainability effectively. The excerpts...
SME: What is magic breathable sand? How does it work?
CD: Breathable Sand — known colloquially as “Magic Sand” due to its transformative properties — is a proprietary solution of Dake Rechsand.
It is the brainchild of Qin Shengyi, the Dean of Rechsand Manufacturing Research Institute, who spent over 35 years studying, developing and testing the medium under rigorous conditions.
In one such trial, Breathable Sand produced optimal rice yield across 1,500 acres of the Ulan Buh Desert — considered one of the seven driest deserts in the world, with temperatures as high as 57 degrees Celsius.
That was possible because of Breathable Sand’s ability to allow free passage of air and retain water for an extended period of time in agricultural applications.
Middle East’s existing agricultural distress, desert conditions, and acute water scarcity make a compelling case for the adoption of Breathable Sand in low-input desert farming.
SME: How does breathable magic sand decrease the use of water by up to 80% in agriculture?
CD: Breathable “magic” Sand is produced by treating typical desert aeolian sand with special technology to make it water-repellent and air permeable.
So, in agricultural applications, Breathable Sand retains the provided water for an extended period of time while allowing free passage of air, thus enabling optimal nutrient supply to the roots.
The efficient nutrient supply, along with water retention and fertilizer preservation, leads to optimal agricultural yield. In local case studies, Dake Rechsand has observed water retention up to seven days after one-time irrigation.
On average, that reduces water requirements by nearly 80% compared to conventional farming practices. In the UAE, where the agriculture sector accounts for around 70% of the total water consumption, such possibilities are a revelation.
SME: Can you let us know where this technology has been applied in the UAE?
CD: The earliest and the most ideal implementation of Breathable Sand can be witnessed in Al Ajban Farms, where agri-businesses and entrepreneurs have leveraged the solution to develop a variety of crops that were previously deemed infeasible in the local conditions.
Even in harsh summers, they have registered optimal yields in moisture-loving plants. Subsequently, Breathable Sand was used in the tree-planting drives of organizations such as Goumbook, Jebel Ali Hotels & Resorts and the Storey Group.
Most recently, the Municipality of Ras Al-Khaimah engaged Dake Rechsand for the transplanting of Ghaf trees on either side of a 5-Km highway stretch.
Breathable Sand showed great promise in mitigating the “transplant shock”, a common challenge associated with re-planting Ghaf trees.
Many home gardeners and advocates of water-wise landscaping have utilized the solution to overcome systemic challenges and achieve positive outcomes while saving water significantly.
SME: What is the roadmap of Dake Rechsand in the UAE and Middle East region?
CD: Breathable Sand was lauded by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) as a promising solution to achieve “Zero Desertification” by 2030.
In line with that objective, Dake Rechsand is striking strategic partnerships with public and private entities for reforestation afforestation in the UAE through a combination of low-input desert farming and synergistic models such as permaculture/food forests and Ghaba model Miyawaki.
We intend to increase the UAE’s “arability”, as only 0.5% of the total landmass is considered arable. Simultaneously, by enabling localized food production, we aim to reduce the nation’s dependence on imports (currently 80–90% of the food is imported).
Catering to eco-conscious consumerism, we are empowering organic-farming entrepreneurs by reducing the certification waiting period and making their ventures financially feasible. We are launching a carbon sequestration program of 50 11million trees in the Middle East GCC region in 2022.
SME: Can you also explain the concept of 'Sponge Cities' which will be an ideal sustainable move for the UAE region?
CD: The Sponge City concept — as the name suggests — involves a widespread implementation of porous pervious materials which absorb rainwater and avert flooding. Dake Rechsand’s Sponge City solution is IDer, which is available in the form of pavers, kerbstones, tiles, and bricks.
They can be paved on rain-exposed surfaces such as roads, playgrounds and parking lots. During rains, the porous surface seamlessly absorbs the runoffs and either discharges them into appropriate areas or stores them in underground reservoirs.
The stored water can be redirected to the grids for community usage. Due to the material's “breathability”, the stored water can remain fresh for extended periods without requiring electricity- or chemical-based treatment.
Sponge City is fit-for-purpose in the UAE because of the increasing flooding incidents and the long-standing water scarcity. Currently, the nation is heavily dependent on desalination plants, which are both energy- and carbon-intensive, hence unsustainable.
Sponge Cities can harness rainwater — the purest form of natural water — at scale, thus creating a new source of potable water and reducing the load on desalination plants.
As they can be implemented in a decentralized manner, practitioners can achieve self-sufficiency in terms of water while protecting their interests through efficient stormwater drainage.
As opposed to a make-use-dispose system, Sponge Cities represent a circular economy, the achievability of which is paramount in view of the UAE-hosted COP28 and the net-zero 2050 goal.