Greening the desert

Written on the 7 October 2009

When the princes of Bahrain and Kuwait step onto the lush green grass that surrounds their desert palaces, it will be homage to the technology developed by a small company on the Gold Coast.

Landscaping firm Grotec has planted contracts with government and major developers by turning sand into soil at palaces and public spaces in Bahrain, Qatar and Dubai. The soil technology has been refined in some of the Gold Coast’s richest gardens.

After more than 20 years as one of South East Queensland’s most respected boutique landscapers, Grotec has recently tapped into overseas markets on the back of its EcoSes soil technology. The process involves the injection into depleted soils of organic acids which absorb carbon dioxide and revitalise the soil structure while promoting root development and plant vitality.

The EcoSes process, part of Grotec’s suite of horticultural services, transforms lifeless earth into moist, productive ‘chocolate cake’ soil and is the secret ingredient in Grotec’s eye-catching Gold Coast garden work.

The ecological breakthrough, which also claims to combat global warming, won Grotec director Sue Bampton a Gold Coast Business Excellence Award earlier this year.

“Whenever I step into a garden, I look at the soil first because you can’t grow a healthy garden or lawn without good soil,’’ says Bampton.

“Tired and sick gardens just speak to me (and) anything from a handful of soil to the veining on the leaves will tell me what needs to be done to get the garden back to sustainable health.’’

Bampton traveled to the Middle East last year with an Austrade export commission as one of nine Australian experts across a variety of disciplines and industries. Grotec was offered the slot after the Australian Trade Commission picked up a media report in Gold Coast Business News on Bampton’s previous self-started Middle East visit.

“I was planning a visit on my own not realising that this organisation and all their help was available so it was perfect timing,’’ says Bampton.

With the ATC’s Ross Guidice as ‘mother hen’, delegates were introduced to handpicked business contacts tailored to their field and the scale of their operations.

“We were linked with amazing contacts which we wouldn’t have had a chance to link with had we gone on our own,’’ says Bampton.

“And the camaraderie was great, everyone became like a little family and we followed each other’s progress.’’

The successful expedition netted Grotec opportunities to implement the EcoSes technology at the Prince of Bahrain’s palace and Bahrain International Airport.

In addition, the firm has submitted landscaping plans for the gardens of a Kuwaiti prince’s palace, which is being restored after damage sustained during the first Gulf War.

“Security’s so tight we’re not even allowed to take photographs of the grounds,’’ says Bampton.

Grotec will also manage the green spaces of the Dubai Waterfront, a 20-year, $34 billion project from developers Nakheel, the group behind the The Palm and The World, to build a new city twice the size of Hong Kong between Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

The Qatar government has also jumped on board, tapping Grotec to bolster the country’s anti-desertification struggle and to develop tracts of greenery around cities to push back the desert.

“The palace gardens are obviously beautiful ‘Arabian Nights’ canvases to work on, but what we’ll be doing in Qatar is the real ‘making the deserts bloom’ stuff,’’ says Bampton.


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