South African win at Google Science Fair


Using orange and avocado peels, a 16-year-old South African could hold the solution to the country’s water woes.

Kiara Nirghin, who is from Johannesburg, has won the Google Science Fair Community Impact Award in the Africa/Middle East region with her entry, “No More Thirsty Crops”. She is also one of the 16 global finalists for the annual awards, to be held at the Google headquarters in the US in September.

Kiara, a St Martin’s High School pupil, admitted she had a natural curiosity and questioning nature which had led her down the path of science.

“I have always had a great love for chemistry since I was young,” she told the Google Science Fair. “I vividly remember at the age of seven experimenting with vinegar and baking soda solutions in plastic cups.”

Food and chemistry were linked in the intertwined science web, she added. “I love molecular gastronomy and the application of scientific principles in food creation.”

It seemed natural then that she could have found a possible solution to South Africa’s drought in, what else, but food.

Kiara created an absorbent polymer from orange and avocado peels that was able to act as a water retainer in soil.

According to the Google Science Fair website, it should be able to “to retain large amounts of water and combat the effects of drought on crops by retaining soil moisture, whilst still recycling waste products of the juice manufacturing industry”.

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She hopes because it is low cost, it will be able to help farmers save both money and crops.

If she won the competition, Kiara said she would be wonderfully elated. “With the prize I will hope to continue my studies in science, but also further the scientific development and application of my idea, and in addition extend scientific progress in elevating the problems that South Africa faces in food security and sustainable agricultural development,” she said.

Source: Google Science Fair

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