Berlin-based Infarm, a rapidly growing urban farming entity with a global presence and whose large farm is fast coming up in Qatar, yesterday said Qatar has the potential to become an agricultural centre and an exporter in the sector.
"Qatar has the potential to become an agricultural centre", just like it is now the economic centre in the GCC (Gulf Co-operation Council) region, Etez Galonska, founder and chief executive of Infarm, said during a panel discussion titled 'Food Security in Peril' on the concluding day of the second Qatar Economic Forum, Powered by Bloomberg.
Qatar has unique opportunities to transform the farm sector to produce fresh local products, thereby enhancing the country's capacity into an exporter, he said.
"We are working on a mega farm in Qatar to be opened next year. We are excited about its prospects," he added.
Infarm, which last year raised $200mn from global investors, including the Qatar Investment Authority, will open its first growing centre (GC) in Qatar, where it will harvest tomatoes, strawberries and other fruiting crops besides herbs, salads and leafy greens.
Infarm's plans are concomitant with the country's plans to enhance self-reliance wherever possible in order to eschew exigent risks in an uncertain world.
QIA had last year said as a responsible, long-term investor, its purpose is to create value for future generations.
"We see vertical farming as a way to enhance food security in every part of the world. We look forward to working with Infarm to develop their first GC in Qatar, which will contribute to Qatar’s own food security and economic diversification," QIA chief executive HE Mansoor bin Ebrahim al-Mahmoud had said last year.
Infarm’s Qatar operations are expected to supplement the already agile agriculture production in the country. The local Qatari farms are expected to record an increase of 2% to 3% in vegetable production.
Youssef Khaled al-Khulaifi, director of the Agricultural Affairs Department at the Ministry of Municipality, recently said the total volume of vegetable production stood at 102,000 tonnes last year and this season is set to witness a growth.
This is the result of a slew of projects, being implemented by the ministry while supporting and encouraging the local farmers.
Infarm GCs are its flagship production units. The spaces connect multiple vertical farming modules, offering the equivalent of about 10,000sqm of growing capacity, with a distribution centre that ensures quick delivery to supermarkets.
Infarm also builds smaller in-store farming units for grocery stores, making the shopping experience more dynamic for consumers.
Both designs were developed to maintain superior freshness while consuming considerably fewer resources than soil-based agriculture.
In addition to the more than 75 different varieties of herbs, salads and leafy greens Infarm currently produces, the company is working to expand its portfolio with 40 new crops such as mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, peas and strawberries.
Meanwhile,president of the Islamic Development Bank and Group chairman Dr Mohamed Sulaiman al-Jasser said member countries of the bank and the developing world are facing a food crisis as a result of many complex and overlapping factors, especially those related to supply chain and conflict, drought, food shortage, high prices and lack of appropriate technology which requires a comprehensive view of treatment, Qatar News Agency reported.
He pointed out that in the context of problems of food insecurity, the Arab Co-ordination Group - which includes a group of Arab development funds - in its recent meeting allocated $10bn for immediate relief and long-term support in the context of measures to respond to the global food supply crises.
He stressed that agriculture is considered one of the main sectors in which member countries enjoy a competitive advantage. He said agriculture sector jobs for the member countries of the bank range from 50% to 70% and that the bank works in a circle that includes farmers, governments, and governmental and non-governmental organisations to improve the agricultural system.
He called on governments to prepare the appropriate invest environment for agriculture sector to strengthen food reserves in the short-term and highlighted that the Islamic Development Bank works openly to mobilise resources with the aim of strengthening food security of membered countries. He added that the bank member countries represent 25% of world population, own 25% of arable land and have 30% of renewable clean energy and yet they are staving.
He explained that the issue of economic empowerment is a priority for the bank and that the bank allocated a lot of time, effort and money, especially for youths and women.