Farming in a desert climate can be hugely challenging but Qatar has been aiming to revolutionise solutions to growing crops in its dry environment.
Innovative farming solutions
For seven decades, AGRICO has been supplying produce to more than one thousand outlets. As chairperson, Ahmed Al Khalaf says, the farming company has addressed climate challenges by learning from experts worldwide whilst demonstrating local solutions to teach emerging farmers.
Al Khalaf encourages businesses in the region to shift their focus to food security and sustainability which he says is the key to self-sufficiency. AGRICO’s seasonal greenhouses are used for different crops all year round using cutting-edge agricultural technology. One of their most innovative approaches is aquaponics, a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics where bacteria help change excretions from fish tanks to fertilise the plants that then absorb extra nitrogen, putting purified water back into the tanks. For the very first time AGRICO has also taken aquaponics and vertical farming with LED lighting, to a grocery store in Qatar. The farm’s general manager, Dr Fahad Saleh Ibrahim, explains: “Carrefour is a good point to educate the public about this way of farming. The plants are extremely healthy, we use less water and get more produce, harvesting only what we need.” The technology is capable of growing various plants including herbs but also fruit like melons and tomatoes.
From farm to table
Organic produce is gaining popularity in Qatar, and Torba Store is a haven for the health-conscious. It is also part of Torba Farms’ overall ethos of farm-to-table produce that includes two farmers’ markets. Founder, Fatma Al Khater, brought the concept to life, for the benefits of sustainable living, "We’re big fans of permaculture and the microbiome, so we’ve got fermented food ranging from kombucha to sauerkraut, and they really do help in fulfilling that holistic lifestyle that we try and educate people about." Torba also seized the opportunity to connect people with food, which is what their Farmers’ Market aims to do, along with uplifting small businesses.
The buzz around honey farming
Since Qatar is well on its way to meeting its ambitious food self-sufficiency targets for 2023, honey production has been increasing over the past few years with local bees and their honey, beeswax and propolis, more popular than ever. There are thousands of bees at Umm Qarn Farm where beekeeper Arafat Hussain works, “I may be one of the first people to produce pollen in Qatar, royal jelly, propolis, and propolis products. Bees teach you sacrifice and sincerity in work.”
Al Waha Farm’s, Samir Abadi, says they aspire to produce two tons of honey annually to meet the huge demand for the golden nectar. Part of this passion involves teaching future generations how to farm bees which are vulnerable to pesticides and natural predators, as well as climate extremes. In their role as pollinators, bees are responsible for one-third of the world’s food production. Globally, the insects are on the decline, but Qatar is making a real effort to focus on beekeeping, pollination, and honey.