Dr Rashid Ahmed Bin Fahad, minister of environment and water, inaugurated the Agricultural Innovation Centre (AIC) in Al Dhaid last month. Speaking at the ceremony he said the centre was in line with UAE Vision 2021, which aims to make the UAE one of the world’s leading countries.
The centre’s vision is to create an agricultural industry which is sustainable within its available resources. It plans to work towards this by developing and improving sustainable agricultural practices in the UAE, through technological innovation and by working with local and international experts.
The AIC will also work with specialist organisations from the region and around the world, in order to promote the latest agricultural research within the UAE. Among the organisations it has already established links with are the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Area (ICARDA), and the Abu Dhabi-based International Centre For Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), which has also been actively promoting sustainable agriculture in recent months.
“It’s absolutely essential we go back to the fundamentals of agriculture, of crop diversity, to fully exploit the natural diversity that exists in crops and their wild relatives, really to make the quantum leaps forward in crop production that are necessary to cope with climate change and to feed a growing population,” said Luigi Guarino, senior scientist at the Global Crop Diversity Trust, speaking on the side-lines of an ICBA event in November 2014.
Among the AIC’s current major projects is a trial of new greenhouse irrigation techniques suitable for use in the UAE, announced shortly after the centre’s inauguration. The project trialled the filtration of water through precious metals when irrigating tomato plants, and saw a significant increase in the size of tomato seedlings compared to those using unfiltered water.
According to researchers, farmers using these filtration techniques will be able to cut water and energy usage, as well as cutting the amount of cleaning required for irrigation systems. The centre is also looking at the potential for plants to cool greenhouses by absorbing water, potentially replacing some external cooling systems.
Bin Fahad said it was vital for the UAE to remain abreast of the latest scientific and technological innovations from around the world. The research industry is a key pillar of the country’s development, and the AIC will maintain the sector’s sustainability by integrating it into the agriculture industry, he added.