Visiting scientists return to Iran to become entrepreneurs

June 27, 2018

Ehsan Askari and his wife Sayareh Irani joined the Department of Agronomy as visiting scholars in 2012-2013 under Drs. Knapp and Lubberstedt. After graduation in 2014, Ehsan with a Ph.D in agronomy and Sayareh a Ph.D in plant breeding, the couple returned to Ehsan’s home town, Rafsanjan in Central Iran known as the capital of pistachio in the middle east.

Ehsan and Sayareh established a factory producing "Kood Aly Ab Negahdar" which means water retention organic manure. Its ingredients are divided into two parts. First is organic matter part which is made of processed animal manure. The other is mineral part that is consisted of several special mineral materials which hold water in their honeycomb structures. These are different from hydrogels which are expensive and not practical for large scale. They are natural and environment friendly and practically improve soil water holding capacity.

Furthermore, because of their high cation exchange capacity (CEC) and also, their efficacy in prevention of leaching, these materials lead to save fertilizer.

As water is becoming more and more a precious and scarce resource, it seems water retention manure could help to produce more crops with less water,” said Ehsan. “This product is affordable for farmers (3$ for a 25 kg packing) and although it works effectively for lawn, all crops, trees and greenhouse plants but our focus here is on pistachio trees. It works perfectly and improves water use efficiency around 30 percent.”

In addition, the couple established a center for plant tissue culture including lab and greenhouse facilities. Pistachio and pear rootstocks, damask rose and recently a precious walnut variety with high yield are now the most important products of their tissue culture center. They also produced a pistachio seedling through tissue culture which does not need to be grafted when it grows up. The process of flowering until ripening in this variety takes just 4 months. So it would be appropriate for geographic latitudes higher than California that have a short growing season.

There are multiple issues with living in Iran, however, and the couple are considering moving to a more economically stable country with their 18-month-old son, Raybod.

“My wife and I do not forget those good days in ISU,” said Ehsan.