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Roof Farming: Creating jobs and saving our planet

We build farms in low income areas to provide jobs for the home owners, increase the food supply, and reduce the heat levels on the building

Photo of Tarek Hosny
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*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional Beneficiary Feedback in this field

Explain your project idea in two sentences.

Our idea is to convert Egypt's empty roofs into productive farms that produce healthy crops, generate income for the tenants, and reduce the heat levels of the buildings.

What is your organization name? Explain your organization in one sentence.

Schaduf is an ancient tool used to raise river water to the land. We raise water & food to roofs.

Is this project idea new for you or your organization? If no, how much have you already executed on?

We implemented many roof farms using different growing techniques. The current project is focused on improving the usability of farms & building 500 farms in a concentrated neighborhood with the infrastructure needed to add value to the products and increase the income for the farm owners.

What is the problem you aim to solve with this idea? How would you define this problem as urgent and a priority in your target community?

We want to create an additional source of income for low income individuals and families, while providing them with clean food and greenery on their roofs. The solution is urgent since 2.2B people globally are living with less than $2/day, and in the case of Egypt there are many unused empty roofs

What is the timeline for your project idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

The target is to complete 500 roofs in 3 years. The product design & development phase in which we are improving on the previous farm units is expected to be completed by August 2017. We will then start implementing the farms at a rate of ~15 per month.

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of responsibility).

We have a diverse team of agronomists, mechanical engineers, and community workers and we are partnering with a local NGO (Kafelat Al Kheir) to select beneficiaries and manage the project logistics.

What do you need the most support with in this project idea?

  • Program/Product/Service Design

What is your primary goal over the next 6 weeks of Refinement?

  • Get exposure to design thinking and IDEO

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) results for this project?

We will measure results by quantitative measure: income received, plants/ food grown, new green areas Qualitative measure: impact on the moral of the farm owners, interaction of kids with the farms, awareness raised on the benefits of roof farming

How has your project proposal changed due to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase?

Based on our previous prototype we learned that the beneficiaries spend too much time watering the plants and that the planters are too low which causes them back pain when they are harvesting the crops.

During this Improve Phase, please use the space below to add any additional information to your proposal.

We received some great feedback that we worked on during the improve phase. The two main concerns we addressed are: 1) Feasibility of implementing 500 farms 2) Our ability to sell the crops Regarding feasibility, we attached a work plan that highlights the resources we will need as well as the installation schedule for the farms. The NGO we are working with is deeply rooted in the community and have already done workshops to collect interested individuals. They use a very rigorous process to inspect roofs, verify roof ownership, and filter people through an extensive training course. To speed up the installation process we are currently developing a new farming unit that will be easy and quick to install. It is currently in the engineering phase. Regarding our ability to market and sell the crops, we have several agreements with major supermarkets to sell our crops. We have been waiting for the right time so we have enough scale. Our concept is popular among several supermarket chains and consumers. We have a strong brand name from our appearances on local TV stations as well as BBC World and CNN. We have highlighted the crops we will work with and their expected profitability in the "Business Plan" document. It also includes the farm profitability as well as the overall project's profitability. We secured funding for a drying unit and packaging unit to add value to our products and improve the profitability of all the parties involved. Farmers will have the right to eat the crops and sell them themselves, however 1 roof produces much more food than one family can eat and selling will be tough to most families, so their best alternative would be to sell through Schaduf without taking on any risk. Since we are adding value to the products, the money they make through Schaduf will also be better than what they can achieve in the local market. Overall we are very grateful for the feedback we received and we hope we managed to solidify our project. Thank you.

Schaduf was founded in 2011 in Egypt with the aim to provide inspired green solutions that elevate the quality of life through social and environmental change. We do so by crafting sustainable spaces that adapt to diverse communities’ needs.

One of our initiatives is focused on rooftop farming in low income areas.

The idea is to increase the total land available for agriculture by utilizing unused roofs, thereby creating much needed food as well as much needed jobs for people that will own the farms. 

We work with NGOs to identify low income individuals who have access to a roof and are interested in growing food on their roof and selling it. We then help them secure funding for the farms through donors or Microfinance Institutions. We support the farmers with growing the crops and we then buy the crops from them to reduce their market risk.

With 2.2B people globally living with less than $2/day, our income generating solution is in high demand. We can leveraging existing global micro-finance capital and grants that are readily available for low income individuals to scale our solution in Egypt and globally.

Explain your idea

please see attachment (170414 openIDEO Roof Farming Summary)

Who Benefits?

There are several beneficiaries of the project. First there are the farmers that are making additional money by working a few hours a week on the roofs. In addition to the financial amount, by interviewing the farmers we have come to realize that growing food has important non-monetary benefits, like improvement mood by being surrounded by greenery and a sense of achievement for growing and caring for a living plant. Other beneficiaries are tenants of the buildings' top floors as the temperature is significantly reduced by having a small roof farm that absorbs up to 90% of sun rays. Finally, the project has an important environmental benefit, since unused spaces are used to produce food that has become increasingly scarce.

How is your idea unique?

Our idea is unique because it focuses on hydroponic farming, which saves water and uses space that is traditionally not used for agriculture. An important aspect of our project is that we reduce the market risk for farmers by buying the crops from them and selling them under our brand.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Full-scale roll-out: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the users I am trying to reach with my idea. I am ready to expand the pilot significantly.

Tell us more about you

Schaduf was founded in 2011 in Egypt with an aim to provide inspired green solutions that elevate the quality of life through social and environmental change. We do so by crafting sustainable spaces that adapt to diverse communities’ needs. We are an outdoors Design-Build company, with a heavy emphasis on innovation and sustainability. We provide turnkey solutions, starting with concept design up to implementation and maintenance. We are constantly pushing the boundaries of life sciences, engineering and art to cater to the needs of our customers and their wellbeing. Schaduf was awarded the United Nations Global Human Settlements Award of GREEN TECHNOLOGY (Quito – Ecuador).

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered company.


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Photo of Appetite For Change

Roof top gardens, oh my! This looks incredible! We can't wait to see this spread world wide! Best of luck!

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