FABsoil is a collaboration between the University of Plymouth and the Eden Project that will ‘create’ soil and then study its properties and functions. The aim is to make the material from recycled and waste materials, including composted green waste, clay, grit and bark, ensuring it’s stable and fertile, whilst maintaining a reservoir of slow-release nutrients to fuel plant growth, without the high demand for fertiliser application.
Artificial soils have many potential uses, from landscaping and urban restoration to landfill and high-value crop production. It brings the possibility of custom-made soils, of varying characteristics, being designed to order for various purposes across a range of locations and markets. Artificial soil has the added benefit of being free of pests and pathogens and would potentially require relatively little maintenance.
The project, led by Dr Mark Fitzsimons, an organic geochemist in the University’s School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, will come up with alternate designs, optimising the chemical and biological make-up, then explore the commercial aspects.
The FABsoil project could develop new commercial possibilities for manufacture and analysis in Cornwall and further afield, with those supplying the raw materials, processors, distributors and end-users all involved. It could offer an alternative to natural soils, complementing other soil conservation measures being taken globally.
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