Qatar’s aim for self-sufficiency in food production has got a major fillip as a local farm succeeded in growing and improving the quality of certain types of vegetables and fruits with hydroponics system.
Prominent Qatari agriculturist Nasser Ahmed al-Khalaf told Gulf Times that his farm will harvest in the coming weeks melons and water melons, grown for the first time in the country using hydroponics.
"We have as well increased the (production of various types of) herbs,” disclosed al-Khalaf, who is also the owner and managing director of Agrico.
A private Qatari agricultural development company established in 2011, Agrico produces organic vegetables and fruits year-round in Al Khor using hydroponics systems and aims to help Qatar achieve food security.
Al-Khalaf said that they will be harvesting between 800kg and 1,000kg of watermelons per week from next week while melons would take 30-45 days more. These types of fruits are grown separately in two greenhouses.
Agrico now produces large-size watermelons with hydroponics system
It is learnt that hydroponics systems, a technology suitable for Qatar’s environment even during the summer, can grow watermelons extremely well, producing big and sweet varieties.
While some local farms also produce melons, al-Khalaf pointed out that Agrico uses hydroponic system and aims to grow vegetables and fruits year-round.
“Any new item we introduce we try to make it sustainable in order to supply the market on a daily basis,” he stressed.
In the mushroom family, the company now added shiitake and oyster mushrooms in its production. By next year, it will also grow some hard vegetables such as carrots and beetroots.
Agrico also plans to experiment with growing bananas by the end of this year, apart from organic papayas and other fruits such as lemon and pomegranate.
Al-Khalaf noted that Agrico’s operations expanded substantially in the previous season to further increase its production and meet the growing demand for fresh produce. It is now exporting various vegetable items to Kuwait and Oman.
After proving it can produce year-round in the past years, even during the summer, he pointed out that they developed other greenhouse systems in a much economical price.
“Our aim in 2018 was to focus more in developing our agriculture system in other farms, which we did by developing over 20,000sqm of greenhouses under our own operation,” al-Khalaf said.
“Besides Agrico, we are also keen in developing other farms using our technology and transferring this know-how to improve the farms in Qatar to make production sustainable,” he observed.
Around 300 of the 1,400 farms are continuously increasing their production of various vegetables since last year and this number is also growing, according to al-Khalaf.
"Qatar residents will also see a huge difference in the quality of existing items this season, especially in tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, capsicum, and eggplant," the agriculturist added.