11 min

Vertical Farming in Qatar – Promise & Challenges The Leading Voices in Food

    • Health & Fitness

Today, we're exploring an agricultural innovation in the state of Qatar in Western Asia. Qatar is a wealthy, densely populated country located on the Northeast coast of the Arabian peninsula and leads the world in liquified natural gas exports. But the country's desert climate is harsh and the agriculture there is challenging. That's where shipping containers, artificial light and vertical farming techniques come into play. Our guest today is horticulturalist Mohamed Hassouna from the Qur-anic Botanic Garden in Qatar. He and his partners at the University of Arizona are developing a shipping container vertical farming model as a way to expand local food production.
Interview Summary
 
So first let's set the stage for our listeners. Could you describe the agricultural challenges in Qatar given the country's dry climate?
 
Thank you for your introduction. Qatar, as other countries located in the Arabia peninsula and also in the Arabian states, are facing very harsh weather conditions. Particularly in Qatar, the weather here is hot desert weather characterized by sparse precipitations and high summer temperature experienced with high humidity, high solar radiation and poor soil additionally to strong winds. And this limits the agriculture sector to the months of October to April. Every year, this is the agriculture season here from October to April then the temperature is fine and can allow for producing vegetables. Also the land, the Arab land, suitable for agriculture is very limited. The last inventory here in the state estimated that there is only 60,000 hectares available for the agriculture sector. Also, we have a challenge with water. Water scarcity. The agriculture sector here in Qatar consumes 90% of the available water for the state. A big challenge is also that the agriculture sector consume about 36% of the available water in the aquifer. And as I told you, we have very minimum amount of rain every year. It's about 80 millimeters on average, every year. So production of agriculture in Qatar is difficult.
 
Well, the picture you paint is really striking and I can imagine those challenges. So what role could your Botanic garden play in addressing food security in the country, closing the food security gap for communities, and also attending to the environment?
 
Yes! The Qur-anic Botanic Garden is an active member in the community development sector in Qatar Foundation. It takes the issue of community awareness and education from school students to housewife to training even professionals to engage in the investment in agriculture. We established at the Qur-anic Botanic Garden an extra curriculum educational program for school students - from early stage to especially secondary schools students - to learn about the challenges of food security in Qatar, and what are the technologies they can learn. Students are leading the future here in Qatar. Without students being aware about the challenges facing the food security and the agriculture production, we cannot guarantee a future outlook of food security. Also the Qur-anic Botanic Garden has been partnered with Qatar Development Bank, and this is the official bank assigned to develop industry like also agriculture sector. So, anyone from Qatar who would like to take a loan to invest in the agriculture sector, we have the mission to train them on the latest technology of horticulture practices. They can use or they can establish greenhouses or they can establish other modern system for a production of vegetables. Either in their homes or in farms outside. Also Qur-anic Botanic Garden established a hotline for household people. There is now community farming in Qatar. People would like to plant their own vegetables in their home. The hotline is answering all their inquiries about seed selections, seedlings, how to prepare soil, how to make pesticides.
 
So let's talk a little more deeply now about vertical farming. Can you describe what that is?
 
Verti

Today, we're exploring an agricultural innovation in the state of Qatar in Western Asia. Qatar is a wealthy, densely populated country located on the Northeast coast of the Arabian peninsula and leads the world in liquified natural gas exports. But the country's desert climate is harsh and the agriculture there is challenging. That's where shipping containers, artificial light and vertical farming techniques come into play. Our guest today is horticulturalist Mohamed Hassouna from the Qur-anic Botanic Garden in Qatar. He and his partners at the University of Arizona are developing a shipping container vertical farming model as a way to expand local food production.
Interview Summary
 
So first let's set the stage for our listeners. Could you describe the agricultural challenges in Qatar given the country's dry climate?
 
Thank you for your introduction. Qatar, as other countries located in the Arabia peninsula and also in the Arabian states, are facing very harsh weather conditions. Particularly in Qatar, the weather here is hot desert weather characterized by sparse precipitations and high summer temperature experienced with high humidity, high solar radiation and poor soil additionally to strong winds. And this limits the agriculture sector to the months of October to April. Every year, this is the agriculture season here from October to April then the temperature is fine and can allow for producing vegetables. Also the land, the Arab land, suitable for agriculture is very limited. The last inventory here in the state estimated that there is only 60,000 hectares available for the agriculture sector. Also, we have a challenge with water. Water scarcity. The agriculture sector here in Qatar consumes 90% of the available water for the state. A big challenge is also that the agriculture sector consume about 36% of the available water in the aquifer. And as I told you, we have very minimum amount of rain every year. It's about 80 millimeters on average, every year. So production of agriculture in Qatar is difficult.
 
Well, the picture you paint is really striking and I can imagine those challenges. So what role could your Botanic garden play in addressing food security in the country, closing the food security gap for communities, and also attending to the environment?
 
Yes! The Qur-anic Botanic Garden is an active member in the community development sector in Qatar Foundation. It takes the issue of community awareness and education from school students to housewife to training even professionals to engage in the investment in agriculture. We established at the Qur-anic Botanic Garden an extra curriculum educational program for school students - from early stage to especially secondary schools students - to learn about the challenges of food security in Qatar, and what are the technologies they can learn. Students are leading the future here in Qatar. Without students being aware about the challenges facing the food security and the agriculture production, we cannot guarantee a future outlook of food security. Also the Qur-anic Botanic Garden has been partnered with Qatar Development Bank, and this is the official bank assigned to develop industry like also agriculture sector. So, anyone from Qatar who would like to take a loan to invest in the agriculture sector, we have the mission to train them on the latest technology of horticulture practices. They can use or they can establish greenhouses or they can establish other modern system for a production of vegetables. Either in their homes or in farms outside. Also Qur-anic Botanic Garden established a hotline for household people. There is now community farming in Qatar. People would like to plant their own vegetables in their home. The hotline is answering all their inquiries about seed selections, seedlings, how to prepare soil, how to make pesticides.
 
So let's talk a little more deeply now about vertical farming. Can you describe what that is?
 
Verti

11 min

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