What is the secret?
In the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is an average of only 12 rainy days a year. And only one percent of the country consisting of seven Emirates that are suitable for agriculture. It is not surprising that 80 percent of agricultural products in UAE are imported from abroad. But more recently here decided on their own to grow crops to meet the food needs of the population and even the entire region, writes “Deutsche Welle”.
The main emphasis was placed on vertical agriculture, in which the UAE are investing millions of dollars. In fact, we are talking about high-tech agro-industrial complexes, which operate without observing the conditions required for traditional agriculture.
Vertical greenhouses – know-how in UAE
Since then, the UAE has directed firms that have innovative technologies that allow, for example, to cultivate agriculture, minimal use of the water. It is extremely important for the country, is located among the Sands.
Sky Kurtz (Kurtz Sky) – founder Smart Pure Harvest Farms. In 2017 it built in Abu Dhabi’s first vertical greenhouse in which plants are grown without soil, in some circles, with led lighting and a special irrigation system that saves water for irrigation and faster to harvest. “When in the beginning I told someone that they are going to grow tomatoes in the desert, everybody thought I was crazy,” recalls Kurtz. But today his idea is widespread in the United Arab Emirates.
“To lettuce grown in normal conditions, on the field, you need 30-40 days. In our greenhouse it is enough for 10-12 days,” – says mark Oshima, co-founder of Aerofarms firms that received financial support from the government of Abu Dhabi to create a vertical greenhouse in the UAE capital. In 2021 it needs to grow about 800 species of different crops.
What are the advantages of vertical agriculture
Advantages of vertical greenhouses is that for the cultivation of plants, they almost do not need soil, and water requires 95 percent less than traditional agriculture. And it is extremely important for the UAE.
Inside the vertical greenhouses plants are grown mainly in two ways. The first hydroponics, when it is necessary minerals and nutrients plants get from the special solution, which is around the roots. The second aeroponika when the nutrients are delivered to plants in the form of an aerosol.
For agriculture takes 70 percent of all fresh water reserves on earth. As to UAE for cultivation of agricultural crops used only ground water, it is a real problem. According to scientists from the organization of ICBA, funded by the authorities of the country and specializing in the study of agricultural processes, the groundwater level decreases faster than the replenishment of their reserves at the expense of rain or river water.
As vertical greenhouses affect the environment
“In the UAE, water is very expensive. And electricity due to the subsidies of the state, on the contrary, cheap,” explains Jan Westra of the Dutch concern Priva, which supplies hardware and software for vertical greenhouses. To ensure the operation of such greenhouses require uninterrupted supply of electricity. The whole process of growing plants in this way is very energy-intensive, it comes with led lighting and ventilation systems and air cooling.
According to experts, if we talk about the impact on the environment, the high energy consumption of greenhouses raises questions. After all, most of the electricity in the region produced from non-renewable sources, which contributes to increased CO2 emissions into the atmosphere and is causing global climate change.
The consequences of this process is very noticeable in the countries of the Persian Gulf. According to a recent study, the average air temperature by 2050 may increase in the region of 2.5 degrees in the next 70 years will significantly reduce the already extremely low level of precipitation. Therefore, besides solving the problem of food security in the implementation of new technologies we should be thinking about environmental protection.
In Saudi Arabia, unlike the UAE, the firm Pure Harvest builds greenhouses equipped with solar panels. Willem van der Chance, a scientist from the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands, convinced that the technology, based on the receipt of energy from renewable sources, must be used in vertical agriculture. Ismahan Eluate from the organization ICBA recognizes that vertical greenhouses in the UAE will take time to fully meet the standards of “green energy”, but he believes this form of agriculture is “very promising”.
Green energy and food security
Interest in “green energy” in the region is not much less than the desire to protect themselves from food shortages in case of drought or pandemic. By 2050, the UAE wish to cover half of all electricity needs from renewable sources.
Fred Rugit, expert on vertical agriculture in the concern Priva, says that if it is necessary to take into account how to manufacture a food product is detrimental to the environment, you should pay attention to the process of transport and storage.
Vertical greenhouses are using more energy than the production of agricultural products in the normal way. But the cost of transportation of the product, for example, by plane or sea, in the first case do not exist. In addition, Rugit pointed to the fact that in the cultivation of vegetables and fruits in the region use less water and pesticides, and consumers are getting far more fresh goods due to the fact that shipping is much faster.