Fresh, tasty greens and produce at your fingertips—no soil and hardly any water necessary.

Too good to be true?

Not with film farming.

No, this isn’t some Kodak throwback. Film farming involves growing plants on a hydromembrane—a thin, clear sheet that’s made up of water-soluble polymer and hydrogel. Because the membrane is super-absorbent, you only need one-tenth of the water a conventional planting system requires. And, because diseases and other pathogens can’t penetrate the membrane, produce is resistant to bacteria and viruses without using pesticides. Finally, the growing process forces a plant to produce more sugars and amino acids, resulting in sweeter, healthier plants.

Dubai-based company Agricel developed film farming as a solution to the difficulty of growing crops in low-water areas—but it’s an interesting idea to help get local produce closer to consumers, year round, regardless of water availability. The system requires a greenhouse, so isn’t suitable yet for small-scale operations, but it’s probably only a matter of time before restaurants could have their own tiny film farming outfits.

Image credit: Francois Schnell