The UAE 'green dreamers' joining crucial fight to boost food and water security

Agricultural innovations with roots in the Emirates on display at major environmental exhibition in Doha

Manhat founder Manhat founder Saeed Alhassan
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UAE innovators are on a mission to turn green dreams into reality to help tackle food waste and boost water security under an ambitious sustainability vision.

The group of environmental champions is demonstrating how cutting-edge technology can be a crucial tool in efforts to protect the planet from pressing climate challenges at the International Horticultural Expo in Doha.

The experts are part of the "Dreamers" group showcasing enterprising projects at the UAE pavilion at the six-month-long event, which concludes on March 28.

The expo – being held under the theme “Green Desert, Better Environment” – is the first international horticultural exhibition to be held in a desert-climate country.

Fuelling sustainable vision

Circa Biotech, a UAE-based AgriTech company, transforms food waste into animal feed and plans to turn it into sustainable aviation fuel to reduce the carbon footprint of the air travel industry.

Dr Haythem Riahi, co-founder of the company, said his team uses black soldier fly larvae to metabolise food waste into proteins and fats that can be used to feed chicken and fish.

“We engineered a controlled environment and used the insects to decompose the food waste,” Dr Riahi told The National." We were able to process three tonnes per day in our facility in Masdar City. It is a highly sustainable process.

“We are building a new facility in Al Ain and it will be processing 1,000 tonnes per year.”

The drive will also produce 1.5 tonnes of organic fertiliser a month.

Going green

An indoor vertical farm equipped with hydroponic technology is also on show at the major exhibition.

Abdulla Al Kaabi, founder of UAE-based Smart Acres, said the farm produces pesticide-free leafy greens using a mere fraction of the land and water required by traditional farming methods.

“I always had passion in environment and farming,” Mr Al Kaabi said. "When UAE government started initiatives about food security and sustainable practices, I was inspired and motivated to do such a project to benefit the community."

The advanced farm requires only 10 per cent of the land and 90 per cent of the water used in conventional methods, Mr Al Kaabi said.

Dr Dinesh Shetty, assistant professor of chemistry at Khalifa University, has developed a water-purification system designed to remove toxic pesticides and contaminants.

“A lot of water is getting wasted," he said. "I developed a polymeric material to remove micropollutants and toxic pesticides within seconds."

The system aims to ensure access to clean and safe water for agricultural and domestic use.

UAE professor builds unique device to water his farm in the desert

UAE professor builds unique device to water his farm in the desert

Floating farms

Dr Saeed Al Hassan, a professor at Khalifa University and co-founder of Emirati start-up Manhat, is shining a light on his plans to use the power of the Sun to improve water security.

The company generates fresh water from the ocean without electricity.

Manhat uses the Sun's heat and the process of evaporation instead of traditional distillation techniques.

Dr Al Hassan wants to build floating farms, using the fresh water collected to irrigate and grow crops right at the source.

“The technology uses sunlight to distil water from the surface on which the farm floats to irrigate the crops," he said. "This natural distillation system uses zero electricity, emits zero CO2 and produces zero brine emissions.

“It offers new ways of farming to coastal communities threatened by rising sea levels. Manhat has already deployed prototypes in different locations in the UAE.”

Natural roots of UAE pavilion

The UAE pavilion’s designer, Giulia Frittoli, senior landscape architect and partner at Bjarke Ingels group, said the structure was inspired by the deep roots and intertwined branches of the drought-resistant ghaf tree.

“The pavilion is designed as a network of rammed earth walls framing a series of exhibition galleries and gardens of indigenous species," she said.

"Walls, floors and roofs are formed by locally sourced soil within Qatar, laid into different strata of limestone and clay mix to recall the region’s geological and mineral diversity.

“There are paths leading to an outdoor oasis, which is organised as a series of thematic gardens, grouped in 32 experiential outdoor rooms that explore the power of plants as a source of food, health and energy.”

Updated: March 19, 2024, 4:54 AM