Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park (SRTI) has been developing innovative technologies, including hydroponics, for agricultural production and food security in the UAE region
Hussain Al Mahmoudi, CEO of SRTI Park, said, “SRTI Park is a hub for researchers, entrepreneurs, start-ups and industry experts who develop solutions that can shape food food production not only in the UAE but also regionally and globally.
Better yield with less resources
“Hydroponics requires a rather large cost in the beginning but it significantly reduces the consumption of water – it saves about 70% of water – and use less or no fertilisers, which makes it perfect to grow food in a desert environment with less agricultural space and far less water resources,” explained Al Mahmoudi.
Aquaponics, meanwhile, is a form of agriculture that combines raising fish in tanks with soil-less plant culture (hydroponics). The nutrient-rich water from raising fish provides a natural fertiliser for the plants and the plants help to purify the water for the fish.
Indoor farming eliminates extreme outdoor temperatures and makes particular sense in our desert environment. We use very little water – about 90% less than conventional farming – and because it is aquaponics, we also produce fresh fish along with a range of vegetables and fruits.
Sustainable food in a land-scarce environment
Al Mahmoudi noted a team of botanists, agriculturists and engineers from Merlin International, has been conducting researches to develop a soil-free vertical cultivation (farming) technology that is the ideal way to produce sustainable food in a land scarce environment.
“This agricultural system at SRTI Park is one of the solutions to the problems of agriculture and food production. The agrotunnel can be combined into multiple units to create a commercial farm to provide fresh organic produce for multiple households daily.” he added.
“The searing summer temperature, a desert landscape and inadequate rainfall are the main challenges to UAE’s agricultural activities. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has also highlighted concerns of global food supply chains being disrupted. But we have the technology to boost local agriculture and foster arming innovation,” highlighted Al Mahmoudi.
Accelerating agricultural growth
“Research and further development of farming methods agricultural technology will definitely accelerate the sector’s growth. We can also use AI (Artificial Intelligence) and big data to boost agricultural produce. We can use drones to map out plants suitable on outdoor farms to save resources,” he continued.
“We want to grow more plants and learn how to grow them better. We want to invite farm owners, agri-business investors, start-ups and anyone interested in this vital sector to collaborate with SRTI Park and advance our agricultural technology,” concluded Al Mahmoudi.