Apr 29, 2020
 in 
Global Health

Can Growing Food on Rocks be the Sustainable Solution to Food Insecurity Post Covid-19?

This piece is written by Yola Balde-Heltberg, Global VP of To Soil Less Consulting and by inventor/author Richard Campbell who discovered the power of the rock over 25 years ago. You can visit the GeoAg non profit K.E.E.P. HERE Download the book River Stones Grow Plants .


Rocks Have A New Voice! Something new is right around the corner this spring related to rocks, bringing some welcomed good news and possible relief to us at home during these bizarre pandemic times. 

In 2017, a quiet release of the book River Stone Grows Plants (RSGP), by Richard Campbell, Dr. Arvazena Clardy from Tennessee State University and Dr. Henry Teng from George Washington University introduced a concept called geological agriculture – the new study of growing plants in rocks without the use of fertilizers or soils.  This book represents the 25-year Campbell family account of observing, researching and refining the process of plants growing in rocks.

Turns out, that despite years of scientific claims that rocks are not capable of growing plants, researchers from universities in the United States, Africa, and China have taken a new look at rock and found that plain old rocks have a new use and can do more than we previously knew, giving rocks a new voice that was previously muted.

Image: Tomatoes Outdoors

The US State Department learned about the GeoAg body of research in 2018 and invited Campbell’s consulting firm, To Soil Less, to present GeoAg at the Mandela Washington Fellows Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Summit in 2018 and again in 2019.  Yola Balde-Heltberg, Global VP of To Soil Less Consulting attended the two YALI Summits, meeting over 700 YALI leaders over the two-year period.  She put a call out to YALI members in January 2020 to request universities to collaborate with GeoAg.  From that January email, faculty from 15 African universities responded to join in the GeoAg team of researchers to explore bringing the GeoAg body of research to the continent.

In 2018, Commissioners from Fulton County, Georgia, home to Atlanta piloted a geological agriculture (GeoAg) training program as a means to address food desserts. Now, two years later, over 1,500 Atlanta area residents have been trained on using the rocks from around them to grow food.  This effort led universities across the state of Georgia to join in the GeoAg body of research.

Image: Tulips Outdoors

Today, faculty members from 15 universities across Africa and 9 universities in the United State are collaborating and working together to research and refine the theories of geological agriculture. This collective of university professors is referred to as the Academic Association of Geological Agriculture Researchers or AAGAR.   Basically, the AAGAR is the new science team on the block, looking closer at Earth’s natural resources for innovation and sustainment.  The White House Initiative on HBCUs recently included GeoAg and the AAGAR in their weekly newsletter dated April 20, 2020.

Image: Lettuce Outdoors

An exciting part of the evolution of this young science is that American and African professors are collaborating together in pursuing grants to advance the GeoAg body of research in both continents. For example, Arsi University in the Kingdom of Ethiopia is collaborating on a grant with Bronx Community College-CUNY in New York to investigate GeoAg impacts on human health.  The Open University in Tanzania is collaborating with Fort Valley University in Georgia on a grant application investigating GeoAg effects on foundational plant systems.

A progressive and innovative research like this is what is needed right now as food insecurity and health issues loom throughout the world.
Image: Pea Shoots Micro-Greens Indoors

If you are like most of us, you’re going to wait until the government introduces it to you in the upcoming years.  However, if you’re in a desperate situation and need access to food and nutrition now, then you may want to download the book River Stones Grow Plants at www.tosoilless.com. This 262-page how to guide provides homeowners with do it yourself guide to grow plants in rocks indoors or outdoors and suitable for homes, apartments, condos and small spaces. 

For those who read the book carefully, you will find an array of GeoAg benefits compared to traditional soil methods.  The seven chapters of the book RSGP covers an array of information for people seeking nutrition, sustainability, and self-sufficiency at home. Chapter 1 introduces the background, history and testing results of GeoAg.  Chapter 2 shows readers the ins and outs of indoor GeoAg micro-farming techniques so you can grow anywhere indoors using a regular 60 watts lamp.  

A few great plants that grow indoors to maturity in rocks include beans, peas, cilantro, micro-greens, sprouts and more. 

Chapter 3 looks at over 20 years of outdoors GeoAg observations where you learn how to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash in rocks year after year.  Chapters 4, 5, 6 provide perspectives on home management techniques, as well as, the do’s and don’ts of GeoAg.  Finally, Chapter 7 explores the business of GeoAg and the appendix includes lesson plans for teachers to use in classroom settings to teach GeoAg in K-12 settings.

We have already mentioned the benefits of not using soils or fertilizers, which is already big, but there is more. Big benefits that consumers like the most include less weeding which keeps most of us out of the gardens in the first place. Additionally, your growing medium is rock, so your garden will last a lifetime. There is also less watering in GeoAg systems, resulting in savings on environmental resources. Lastly, the other benefit is that many plant types grow well in rocks.

For those who don’t read the book RSGP will have a much harder time figuring out the nuances of GeoAg.  About 60% of the rules of gardening are different in rock than in soil, and you are not going to know which rules are different.  Do yourself a favor and learn GeoAg to sustain the household.

Image: Sunflower Outdoors

A progressive and innovative research like this is what is needed right now as food insecurity and health issues loom throughout the world. To donate to the GeoAg research effort, visit www.keep-inc.org, the official non-profit of GeoAg.  The K.E.E.P., which is the office non-profit of GeoAg hosts Sunday Sustainability GeoAg Home Training Zoom conferences to teach people aspect of GeoAg with founder, inventor and author Richard Campbell who discovered the power of the rock over 25 years ago.

Image: Cucumber at home

In the United States, the 9 universities researching GeoAg include: 1)Bronx Community College/CUNY in New York; 2) Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia; 3) Delaware State University in Delaware; 4) Fort Valley State University in Georgia; 5) Medgar Evers/CUNY in New York; 6) Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland; 7) Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia; 8) Savannah State University in Georgia; and 9) Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee.  

In Africa, faculty from 15 universities seek to bring GeoAg to their country including: 1) Arsi University in Ethiopia, 2) Agriculture Institute of Mali in Mali, 3) Agriculture Institute of Senegal in Senegal, 4) Dominion University College in Ghana, 5) Fort Hare University in South Africa, 6) Grand Bassa Community College in Liberia, 7) Lilongwe University in Malawi, 8) Open University in Tanzania, 9) Santos University in Angola, 10) University of Bamenda in Cameroon, 11) University of Juba in South Sudan, 12) University of Mauritius in Mauritius, 13) University of Rwanda in Rwanda, 14) Awolowo University in Nigeria and 15) University of Makeni in Sierra Leone.

Download the book River Stones Grow Plants to your smart phone at www.tosoilless.com.   Visit the GeoAg non-profit K.E.E.P. at www.keep-inc.org.  To see GeoAg pics visit www.Instagram.com/tosoilless  or on Facebook go to www.Facebook.com/AAGAR.  See US State Department GeoAg blog https://yali.state.gov/introduction-to-geologicalagriculture/.