Doha, Qatar; February 05, 2019:
Qatar Fertiliser Company (QAFCO), AGRICO and Yara International ASA (Norway) signed a Cooperation Agreement on the 15th of October 2018 to establish a Hydroponic Trial and Demonstration Center in Qatar to test local greenhouse technologies, nutrient management and best horticultural practices. The objective is to develop a sustainable crop management system suited for the Qatari climate that achieves high yields and productivity while conserving precious local water resources and limiting any negative impact of vegetables production on the local environment.
The Trial and Demonstration Center’s growing area is 3,750 square meters and is established on a plot near AGRICO Farm in Al Khor. The Center was designed and built by AGRICO using technology, knowledge and expertise accumulated during 10 years of experience operating in protected agriculture in Qatar. The Center is jointly operated by the three companies.
Currently the Trial and Demonstration Center features three different types of greenhouses:
- Multispan greenhouse protected by insect net: It is the most affordable type of greenhouses and suitable for growing vegetables for 8-9 months per year. Such technology allows better protection for the plants from insects, and reduces the use of agrochemicals whilst, at the same time, providing a more suitable micro-climate for growing vegetables than in the open field.
- Plastic tunnels with evaporative cooling are more expensive to build but allow better climate management inside the greenhouse and longer growing season which might last to up to 10 months per year. Furthermore plastic tunnels are most appropriate for small scale farming.
- The third type is a multispan plastic greenhouse with evaporative cooling for achieving optimum temperature during the day and air conditioning for night time cooling in the summer. These greenhouses allow better climate management where the growing season may last up to 11 months.
All crops in the Trial and Demonstration Center are grown in hydroponics, a method of growing fruits and vegetables without the use of natural soil. In soilless agriculture, crops are grown in substrate (for example coco coir, perlite, rock wool) that is constantly fed with nutrient solutions. This way of growing reduces the risk of plants being exposed to soil diseases and allows saving of water, fertilizers and agro-chemicals. In addition yields in hydroponics are usually higher than in soil based cultivation, meaning more production using less land, fertilizers and water and the prevention of land contamination.
All plants are constantly fed with nutrient solution via a drip irrigation system that precisely combines water and required nutrients. The nutrient solution is prepared from Yara’s fertilizers and is tailored for each crop, each stage of growth and each type of greenhouse. Different irrigation regimes and recipes are managed by a specialized fertigation computer. Regular analysis of substrate, leaves, nutrient solutions and drainage water is performed in the QAFCO Laboratory. This analysis allows the accurate monitoring of the quality of water, composition of the nutrients and nutrient absorption rate of plants and the correction of the nutrient recipes, if necessary.
In addition to nutrient management, very detailed crop monitoring is performed by Yara and AGRICO agronomists. Regular monitoring of weather conditions such as sun radiation, ambient temperature and relative humidity is necessary to adjust water and nutrient supply to the plants. Monitoring plant growth dynamics such as stem thickness, plant vigor, flowering and fruit set is important for understanding whether plants are healthy and well balanced and to ensure that the most appropriate conditions are found to achieve the highest yield.
QAFCO, AGRICO and Yara plan to share the data generated and the lessons learned from the Trial and Demonstration Center to educate and support Qatari farmers. Accordingly, multiple training sessions are planned during the growing season. Furthermore, the Center is conducting workshops for schools and institutions who are interested to learn more about agriculture and hydroponics.
QAFCO Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Abdulrahman M. Al-Suwaidi, AGRICO General Manager, Mr. Nasser Al Khalaf, and Yara International ASA Chief Executive Officer and President, Mr. Svein Tore Holsether, officially opened the Trial and Demonstration Center in Al Khor on February 5, 2019.
Mr. Al-Suwaidi, expressed, “QAFCO supports such initiatives similar to this demonstration center to share agricultural best practices, techniques and lessons learned with the Qatari agricultural sector as a contribution to Qatar’s goal of agricultural self-sufficiency.”
Mr. Al Khalaf expressed, “we are very proud of the cooperation between private and public sector to develop the local farms production with higher yields and quality. The fruitful result from the hard work of every party can be seen today in the demonstration center. This cooperation and development is aligned with His Highness the Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani’s 2030 vision to achieve food security in Qatar.”
Mr. Holsether expressed, “Yara International has committed to help to develop Qatar’s agricultural sector. We have achieved the first step and together with our partners established the very first demonstration center of such kind in Qatar. We already see tremendous results from our mutual cooperation when Yara’s deep knowledge in crop nutrition successfully combined with the local expertise of AGRICO and Qafco to make Qatari farming sector more efficient and ensure sustainable growth. Our joined team is working together to achieve our ultimate goal to impact the whole Qatar farming sector positively in terms of economic viability and environmental impact”.
Qatar Fertiliser Company P.S.C. (“QAFCO”) is the world’s largest single site producer of urea and ammonia. It was incorporated in 1969 and is currently a joint venture between Industries Qatar QSC (“IQ”) [75%] and Yara Netherland BV [25%]. QAFCO is engaged in the production of ammonia and urea.
Established in 2011 by Mr. Ahmad Hussain Al-Khalaf, AGRICO is a private local Agricultural Development Company specialized in developing High-Tec greenhouse and cultivation system suitable to Qatar environment and was founded on the principle of sustainable long term agricultural production with an eye on the National vision of achieving food security. AGRICO aims to achieve this through combining local innovation, international expertise and the best available technology in the world.
We have made a breakthrough in 2015 in our greenhouse system and we have proven that we can produce vegetable all around the year in Qatar. We target to spread the technology around the country and increase the awareness of sustainable healthy fruits and vegetables production.
In collaboration with customers and partners, Yara grows knowledge to responsibly feed the world and protect the planet, to fulfill its vision of a collaborative society, a world without hunger and a planet respected.
Our crop nutrition solutions and precision farming offerings allow farmers to increase yields and improve product quality while reducing environmental impact. Our environmental and industrial solutions improve air quality and reduce emissions, and are key ingredients in the production of a wide range of products. We foster an open culture of diversity and inclusion that promotes the safety and integrity of our employees, contractors, business partners, and society at large.
Founded in 1905 to solve emerging famine in Europe, Yara has a worldwide presence with more than 17,000 employees and operations in over 60 countries. In 2017, Yara reported revenues of USD 11.4 billion. www.yara.com