In order to help the country and the region attain food security, the Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park (SRTI Park) has been developing novel technologies like hydroponics and aquaponics, as well as using seawater to grow food.
"We've been using technology to improve agricultural productivity and food security," SRTI Park CEO Hussain Al Mahmoudi stated. "We invented hydroponics and have a 150-square-metre aquaponics farm called Merlin Agrotunnel, which can produce over one tonne of organic vegetables and fruit per month."
The SRTI Park, according to Al Mahmoudi, is a centre for researchers, entrepreneurs, start-ups, and industry specialists who develop solutions that can impact food production not only in the UAE, but regionally and worldwide.
"The sector's growth will undoubtedly be accelerated by research and development of farming practises and agricultural technology. AI and big data can potentially be used to increase agricultural production. Drones may be used to map out plants that are suited for outdoor farming in order to save resources "He went on to say more.
He defined aquaponics as a type of agriculture that blends fish farming in tanks with soilless plant culture (hydroponics). Plants benefit from the nutrient-rich water that comes from growing fish, and the plants help to filter the water for the fish.
Indoor farming, according to Al Mahmoudi, avoids severe outdoor temperatures and makes sense in our desert climate. "We use a lot less water than traditional farming – approximately 90% less – and because it's aquaponics, we also produce fresh fish as well as a variety of vegetables and fruits."
The water used to irrigate the fruit and vegetables is saltwater that has been desalinated using solar energy, completing the building of an integrated system that ensures natural resource sustainability.
Al Mahmoudi emphasised: "The UAE's agricultural efforts are hampered by scorching summer temperatures, a desert landscape, and insufficient rainfall. Concerns about global food supply networks have been raised as a result of the coronavirus epidemic. We do, however, have the technology to help local agriculture and farming innovation."
He went on to say: "We can absolutely overcome the obstacles if we focus on research and development of modern agricultural technology. For example, we can improve the soil to increase water retention and hence improve water management."
"We can teach local farmers how to effectively manage crops and increase their production. Hydroponics and aquaponics are two topics we can teach them about. To control the amount of water used, we should also develop vertical farming. Artificial light is also used as a substitute for sunshine in this sort of farming."
"We aim to cultivate more plants and improve our growing techniques. We would like to welcome farm owners, agribusiness investors, start-ups, and everyone else who is interested in this important sector to work with SRTI Park to improve agricultural technology "Al Mahmoudi concluded.