A one-of-its-kind and sustainable farming system to grow vegetables in a complete indoor environment is currently being developed by a private Qatari agricultural development company.
“The system, which is under testing at the moment, is very promising and doing very well so far,” prominent Qatari agriculturist and Agrico managing director Nasser Ahmed al-Khalaf told
The company, one of the registered Research Centre under the Qatar National Research Fund, finds LEDs as “the best lighting sources for indoor operations primary or supplemental".
“With LEDs and new networking hardware and software, we can craft proprietary light formulas or recipes to bring out the characteristics of the plants to know (what) will make them most marketable,” according to information from Agrico's website.
A recent study by Agrico, a collaborator in numerous research and development projects, showed that basil grown under five different light treatments was spicier, tasty, and aromatic (in a blind taste test).
“Controlled growing environments already mean less water waste, less chemical runoff and a more efficient use of space. Add LEDs into this mix and indoor growing becomes that much more environmentally friendly. The efficiency of LED systems makes for a much-reduced carbon footprint as well.
“Horticultural LEDs, networked control systems, and new developments in spectral science have led to a world of more efficient, less expensive, more productive growing operations,” Agrico posted on its website.
Al-Khalaf said that they are focusing on exploring other technologies other than hydroponics, and have also successfully developed an aquaponic system to produce leafy vegetables and fish.
After developing a highly sophisticated hydroponics system that can produce different types of organic and pesticide-free vegetables and fruits year-long, Agrico is now venturing into aquaponics to produce better and high-quality yields at a faster pace.
Al-Khalaf underlined the key role that advanced farming technologies such as hydroponics and aquaponics play in further boosting production even in the summer.
It is learnt that many supermarkets across the country witnessed a huge demand for local and organic fresh produce such as tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, zucchini, mushrooms, and other green leafy vegetables, prompting local farms to produce more.
He noted that the cost for using a system like aquaponics to complement farming is less compared to applying natural fertilisers, and can yield excellent results.
“Also, we have our shrimp farm, which should be operational before the end of the year. By next year we will be producing around 350 tonnes of shrimp,” al-Khalaf said.
Agrico, currently developing other local farms and involved in a number of agricultural projects in Qatar, aims to produce around 800 tonnes of fresh shrimps and fish (tilapia) annually to help the country achieve self-sufficiency in food. This figure will supply at least one-third of the total consumption of fresh shrimps in Qatar, estimated at 1,000 tonnes annually.