What would normally take million-dollar greenhouses can now be accomplished in a slough or stream thanks to a patented floating trees method developed by Weyburn’s own Rod Sidloski.
Sidloski founded the charitable organization HELP International in 1993. As CEO and Lead Researcher of HELP, he grows shelter-belt trees, and now teaches his unique method all over Canada and wherever else he is invited.
Following the Canadian launch of his streamlined method just last week, a video has gone viral on Facebook that has Sidloski receiving feedback from all over the globe. His floating trees method, also known as the ‘two-penny tree’ system, has created a buzz, including from some critics.
“It shows where the scientific community is in their thinking, and it's not supposed to work,” he said. “Even the most friendly of them, a government tree researcher, says this is counter-intuitive. It's against all the principles of tree production as they've known it.”
The system enables live-storage of trees using the floating method, and requires no greenhouses, no irrigation technology, no artificial fertilizers or nutrient-feeding and no fungicides.
His floating trees method has scientists baffled, partially due to the fact the trees will even float for years, including throughout winter.
“Not only can they survive two weeks or six weeks or eight weeks, but we've floated trees for as long as five years,” said Sidloski. “Five years. And when winter comes, they're frozen solid in the ice, and springtime comes and they wake up very happy and the next year they go to sleep again frozen solid in the ice.”
He said they don’t lose a single tree in the floating ice, noting that ice is warmer than frozen earth.
Sidloski describes himself as a hands-on, front-line CEO. He is the principal trainer, coach and supervisor for up to 20 rotational interns who come each year to apprentice at HELP in tree production, field forestry, zero waste industries, and phytoremediation.
He makes the two-penny tree propagation method available to individuals, municipalities and businesses. He has launched the floating-trees methodology in a number of places, including in the African country of Ghana.
“One of the leading universities in Ghana is sending six PhD and Master's students in mid-April for training and participating in research,” said Sidloski. “They'll go back and in July of this year, they're starting their first pilot million-tree nursery using this system in Ghana.”
He said normally, this would be a big deal, but with his method, it’s entirely feasible.
“This system is so incredibly low-cost that a million trees is not a big affair at all, using this system,” he said. “Typically, that might be a four million dollar greenhouse. But in this system it could be a $6,000 dugout.”
He said the per-plant water use is 93 per cent less than conventional greenhouses utilize to produce the same high-quality container root plant. The method works with any kind of water.
“We've used every kind of water, even putrid water, we've used slough water, we've used freshly pumped water from the river, we've used chlorinated water and so far we haven't seen a difference,” he said. “We haven't done control studies with different types of water, all we know is in the same number of weeks it produces a similar result in tree development.”
He said even though he made this discovery a very long time ago, he and his team have put thousands of hours into research all of the different bodies of water that can be used.
“We've tried many, many different things,” said Sidloski. “What quality of water, what about from seed? From cutting? Or what about from an existing plant that was in a bare root that was in a pot and convert it over to this so it makes a container root?”
While worldwide patent rights have recently been established, the method was patented in Canada two years ago after a lengthy pending period.
Not only does Sidloski have a golden-green thumb, he has a green vision for the world's ability to grow just about anything green. He said he's currently experimenting with cereals.
“We have flax, wheat, and barley, it's floating,” he said. “It doesn't matter if it's floating on four inches of water or 20 feet of water, the principle is exactly the same. So that's exciting. It's an unlimited field. We want to test tens of thousands of plant varieties.”
He said they have also been testing tropical trees. His research has been able to compare tropical trees with deciduous trees grown in Canada.
While the research will continue to be ongoing, the worldwide launch of the system will enable communities to grow millions of trees at an extremely low cost.