Zulal Oasis, part of Qatar’s state-backed food and agriculture investment arm, revealed the systems and plans in a presentation last month.
The company was formed from a partnership between Hassad Food and European consortium Oasis Agrotechnology, created to develop greenhouse technology suitable for Qatar’s climate.
The pilot research and development project tackles challenges facing the local agriculture sector such as, high temperature and humidity and lack of ground water and arable lands.
High yield hydroponics
“The technology proved to be perfectly suited for Qatar's climate; it also exceeded expectations regarding the yield and quality, producing more than 37 kilograms per square metre of highest quality European Standard,” said Nasser Mohamed Al Hajri, chairman and MD of Hassad Food.
“The Zulal Oasis technology is a long term sustainable production model, with the capability of producing high-grade crops 12 months a year regardless of the season… while efficiently using and recycling 100% of the irrigation water,” he added.
The main technology in use are the “New Growing System” (NGS), a hydroponics system, and the “Dry Air Cooling System” (DACS), an automated climate control system, both tuned to work in the harsh conditions of the Arabian peninsula.
These have been used to grow vegetables including tomatoes, lettuce, marrows, beans, green peppers, cucumbers and aubergines, and watermelon and strawberries, among other fruits.
Farmers using the integrated production system will be able to produce vegetables throughout the year, said Zulal Oasis.
Qatar has ambitious plans to use the technology now it has been proven, according to Zulal Oasis board director Hamad Al Hajri: “The objective of Zulal Oasis is to increase the footprint of agriculture production in Qatar using NGS technology to 1,000 hectares, which will improve the level of self-sufficiency of vegetables in country, gradually replacing imports with local production up to 70% of projected demand for 2023.
“Additionally, Zulal Oasis is working with the private sector and farmers in Qatar trying to provide a high-tech greenhouse technology, along with technical support of operations, management and training, which can be sustainable environmentally and economically,” he added.
The NGS technology is patented by Oasis Agrotechnology and in use across the world – but the total greenhouse system and cooling technology are owned by Zulal Oasis.
The company is now marketing the systems to customers in Qatar and across the GCC, according to Hamad Al Hajri.
“Currently the company is trying to promote the technology to the Qatar’s private sector and farmers/investors. One of the main challenges is to attract investments in agriculture field especially since there are other sectors which can provide higher returns on investments on a shorter time,” he said.