*Company exported products to Kuwait nearly five weeks ago and is now in talks with Oman: Qatari agriculturist

Both the quality and quantity of fresh produce in Qatar have significantly improved this summer compared to the same period in previous years, prominent Qatari agriculturist Nasser Ahmed al-Khalaf has told Gulf Times.

Al-Khalaf, managing director of local Qatari agricultural development company Agrico, attributed the feat to research and development.

“We have been constantly improving the system to produce more and meet the increasing demand for fresh vegetables in the country,” he noted. “It (greenhouse) is developed by us and our research and development (in indoor farming) continues.”

Agrico, which operates a 120,000sqm (12 hectares) organic farm in Al Khor, has been at the forefront of helping the country achieve food security. It produces organic vegetables all year long, using locally made and state-of-the-art hydroponic greenhouses.

The company exported products to Kuwait by sea nearly five weeks ago and is now negotiating with Oman, according to al-Khalaf.

“Hopefully, within the next three weeks we will start our first shipment to Oman since the blockade,” he added.

Al-Khalaf also disclosed that they are currently developing a greenhouse system with solar energy, which could supply a substantial amount of electricity to his farm near Al Khor. “If we are able to generate enough power, then we can produce all types of vegetables in the greenhouse.”

He noted that such a plan, which is still in the design phase, aims to take advantage of the greenhouse structure and use new types of solar panels to generate power.

Al-Khalaf said the company is now modifying its seasonal net greenhouses, which built for the winter this year, to produce even during the summer.

The company has constructed an additional 120,000sqm of these seasonal net greenhouses to grow more fresh vegetables during the winter season, in addition to its 120,000sqm facility, which operates all year round.

“We have actually planted (in) the net greenhouse in mid-July and waiting for the production in the end of August,” he said. “If we succeed, we can guarantee a long season that can last 10 months or more of production, getting a high yield at a very low cost.

“My target today is to increase the yield per square metre in different types of greenhouses and produce new varieties such as strawberries.”

According to al-Khalaf, his farm now also produces good-quality papayas, which can be bought in the local market.

Agrico is also planning to experiment with growing bananas by the end of this year, apart from melons and watermelons.