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Clayola: Local Start-Up Takes the Hassle Out of Horticulture

Clayola: Local Start-Up Takes the Hassle Out of Horticulture
    written by
    Haisam Awad

    For the last few years, all we’ve heard is that Cairo is a hub of entrepreneurship, ideas and innovation – not quite a place that’s paved with gold sidewalks, but one where dreams can come true, despite the more recent turn for the worse that the economy has taken.

    It all makes for great headlines, but when you look closer, there’s an argument to be made that it’s all built on a whole load of hot air; that one could very easily question the viability, longevity and practical value of much of the city’s light-bulb moments.

    But there are a select few individuals that have ticked all three of those boxes (viability, longevity and practical value) with the most simple but effective of ideas – Rami Halim of Clayola is one of them.

    Describing himself as a lazy, plant-loving city-dweller, Halim’s own light-bulb moment was born out of a quest for horticultural expediency – in short, to find an easy and efficient way to water his house plants whether he has at home or away.

    “I love plants but watering them every morning wasn’t very convenient. I also wanted to find a way to water my plants while I’m traveling; something low-tech that doesn’t require electricity and is fail safe,” he told us, continuing on that he initially thought of the conveniently porous ola – and that inspired both the mechanism and the name.

    “Egyptians have used it since forever to cool water, so I thought of using it to deliver water to the soil,” he said, adding that he was surprised to find that this was a technique used for thousands of years in North Africa and Spain. “It makes you thinks what ancient wisdoms that were once out there and got lost,” he told us with a sense of marvel.

    But how, does Clayola, which comes in the form of 6 clay pots all made by local artisans, work?

    “The porous nature of clay lets water seeps into the soil when soil is dry and less so when wet,” Halim explains. “It seemed like the perfect and most natural way to water plants. I experimented with it and it worked brilliantly. I came back after a month and all my plants were alive! Not only that, but they were actually doing great due to the consistent moisture. Seeing how well it worked, I thought turning it into a product would be a good idea. The name ‘Clayola’ combines the words ‘clay’ and ‘ola’.

    But deep at the heart of what makes Clayola so good, is how simple it all is – and customers from 15 different countries – and counting – agree.

    “I wanted the product to be easy to setup and maintain. Coming up with a really simple siphon pump was one of the small details that makes Clayola ‘just work’. The Clayola has a tapered design that looks like a bullet so it can be easily pushed into the soil next to a plant. The Glazed top prevents water from evaporating into the air, and gives it structural strength.”

    The Clayola has thus far been something of a sleeper hit with fellow lazy, plant-loving city-dwellers – perfect for the amateur gardener or horticulturist that just doesn’t have the time or recollection skills to water their plants on a regular basis.

    But since its launch, it’s also found a place in the hearts of the increasing number of small scale farmers and rooftop vegetable gardeners.

    “The way Clayola works ensures a consistent self-regulated irrigation,” he explained. “What the Clayola offers is the ways to make their rooftop [gardens] even more autonomous, like helping them use a toilet-tank style valve that automatically fills up a central water reservoir when level drops and that reservoir can be used to irrigate an entire rooftop full of vegetables at little-to-no human involvement. Air conditioners can generate up to 30 liters of clean distilled water over a single night of use. That water is dispensed into the street. I’ve rerouted the AC tube into the water tank and, last summer, my 15 plants got zero tap water,” he states proudly.

    And so despite the seeming simplicity of it all, there’s still room to grow and evolve for what is an ingenious piece of equipment that has viability, longevity and practical value – because, after all, necessity is the mother of invention.

    For more information, check out Clayola on Facebook.