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Qatar: Turning Desert Into Farmland

Qatar will use hydroponics to become more self-sustaining. Qatar will use hydroponics to become more self-sustaining.

 

The Middle Eastern nation of Qatar, while small in size, puts itself on the map thanks to being one of the biggest players in the global oil industry today. Dwarfed by neighboring Saudi Arabia and with a landmass of less than 5,000 square miles, the seaside nation has hurled itself to the forefront of global wealth through massive oil and gas reserves trapped far beneath its sands.

With a title like richest country in the world, Qatar doesn't go without. The country uses its fortunes to fulfill its every wish from huge desalination plants that turn the sea into crystal clear drinking water to an exclusive market comprised almost entirely of foreign imports.

Despite its picture perfect life of luxury, Qatar's reliance on foreign food has proved a worrisome crutch. The government, well aware that it will not be able to carry itself indefinitely on oil and gas alone, has instead turned its attention to its nearly lifeless agricultural sector as a solution and a jumping-off point to plan for a sustainable future.

The irrigation system taps into a multistage evaporative desalination unit that is fueled by a concentrated solar power array, the first of its kind in Qatar, which also uses seawater as a coolant.

Already at a disadvantage due to its size, only 1.64% of Qatar's landmass is arable. This harsh reality spurred the country's National Food Security Programme to found the Sahara Forest Project Pilot Facility and the site, which has been operational since late 2012, is now a center for agricultural research specific to desert climates with hydroponics at the top of its list.

At the moment, the facility is testing ETFE and polythene roofs on different greenhouses already lush with hydroponically grown cucumbers and cooled by seawater. The seawater evaporates as it flows down cardboard honeycombs, which line the greenhouse walls and additionally act as a humidifier.

The irrigation system taps into a multistage evaporative desalination unit that is fueled by a concentrated solar power array, the first of its kind in Qatar, which also uses seawater as a coolant. As a final measure, the greenhouse is pumped with carbon dioxide from a nearby fertilizer factory, reducing emissions from the factory and accelerating crop production.

Since the two most abundant resources in Qatar are seawater and sand, the facility is trying its best to pioneer as many environmentally sound technologies as it can that utilize both. Next to the greenhouses are grains growing in sand beds watered by nutrient-laden drip irrigation systems, saltwater pools for halophyte cultivation, and an algae test facility exploring the use of native algae species as nutriceuticals, biofuels, and fodder.

It's a significant innovation for the region and one that can positively say it has the best interests of its population and environment in mind. A oasis is being built that will turn what was once sand into a food producing Eden, and Qatar will use hydroponics to do so as it continues to explore farming in its harsh desert climate.

© Copyright RosebudMag.com, 2013



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Last modified on Wednesday, 21 August 2013 06:14

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