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How Tulima is Growing Urban Farms in Upcycled Container Boxes

Bringing their vision of urban farming to Cairo, Tulima grows its products vertically and hydroponically in upcycled container boxes.

Hoping to use their green thumbs to revolutionise vegetable farming in Egypt, Tulima Farms uses state-of-the-art technology and ancient Egyptian farming techniques to help modernise climate-positive farming.

“Farming should give more to people and the planet, more than it takes. That’s where we stand,” Zeina Salama, Co-Founder of Tulima, tells CairoScene. “It’s not about recycling or using less water, but about changing the way we think. We increase yields by saving valuable fresh water on the smallest possible plot of land, using the least energy and strictly avoiding harmful chemicals.”

Meaning ‘Let us farm’ in an African Bantu language , Tulima’s story begins on a farm in El Beheira, two hours away from Cairo. Tulima grows its products vertically and hydroponically, in nutrient-rich water. Tulima’s founders believe that change happens in unity, with the participation of communities.

“Once you include the technology available today, the game changes,” Salama adds. “You’re able to optimise the living conditions of each crop individually so it can thrive in nutrients, quality, taste, aroma, colour, health benefits and everything else.”

Tulima has two locations: their 25,000sqm of advanced, data-driven, climate-controlled greenhouse in El Beheira, and their newly-established CityFarms, a 40ft mobile shipping container in Heliopolis that has been upcycled and transformed into a full farm, with a dynamic LED system and climate control. They can use 25 litres of water a week to grow a yield equivalent to 2.5 acres.

“We can grow up to 13,000 plants at a time, all while being able to move anywhere in the world, and still function at maximum capacity,” Salama explains. “This technology saves a lot of the urban problems facing the world today.”

Everything and anything that comes to and from the farm is also up-cycled, even the furniture. Their grow bags are made out of recycled material, and their packaging is completely biodegradable. They’re hoping to become the first thing you think of when you imagine ‘urban farming’ - and with the way their vision has been realised, it’s hard to imagine it as anything else.