Qatar agriculture sector's self-sufficiency efforts will get a further boost with a plan to develop 1mn sqm of land for indoor farming, prominent Qatari agriculturist Nasser Ahmed al-Khalaf told Gulf Times.
“Now we are developing other farms and we have under study some other projects, which can reach 1mn sqm in total,” said al-Khalaf, the owner and managing director of Agrico.
A private Qatari agricultural development company, Agrico was established in 2011 with the aim of helping the country achieve food security. Agrico operates a 120,000sqm (12 hectare) organic farm in Al Khor.
Al-Khalaf said the 1mn sqm project will involve more than four local farms, and could operate by the end of 2019 or early 2020 if plans pushed through as scheduled.
“Currently we are putting the feasibility study and the drawings,” he noted, adding that such initiative can significantly increase the country’s fresh produce and help efforts for self-sufficiency.
Al-Khalaf said Agrico invested in research and development, trying to develop indoor farming in the past two and a half years to produce fresh vegetables all year long in Qatar.
“We have modified technology developed in the Western World, and adapted it even further to have a very unique system anywhere in the world,” he stressed.
The Qatari agriculturist cited a significant increase in the production of fresh vegetables this winter, covering more than 20% of the country’s total consumption.
“The final figures will not be known until the season is finished,” he said. “Some farms will finish by end of April, the remaining will finish by end of June but some other farms are producing all year long.”
Agrico built an additional 120,000sqm of “seasonal greenhouses” to grow more fresh vegetables during the winter season amid the blockade on Qatar, in addition to its 120,000sqm facility, which operates year-round.
According to al-Khalaf, these seasonal greenhouses will stop operating during the summer but actual greenhouses (using 120,000sqm of land) will continue to produce, about five tonnes of fresh vegetables daily.
He added that Agrico and other local farms are producing more herbs now such now as coriander, spinach and parsley, among others, to meet the growing demand in the country.
Fruit production may take more time since it will require more land unlike vegetables.
Al-Khalaf added most of the farm owners in the country are continuously expanding their cultivation area and growing more varieties of vegetables.