Qatar Fertiliser Company (Qafco), leading private Qatari agricultural development company Agrico and Yara International ASA (Norway) have officially opened the Hydroponic Trial and Demonstration Centre in Al Khor on Tuesday.
Qafco managing director and CEO Abdulrahman M al-Suwaidi, Agrico general manager Nasser al-Khalaf, and Yara CEO and president Svein Tore Holsether, opened the facility.
Qafco, Agrico and Yara had signed a co-operation agreement on October 15, 2018 to establish the Centre so as to test local greenhouse technologies, nutrient management and best horticultural practices.
The objective is to develop a sustainable crop management system suited for the Qatari climate that achieves high yields and productivity while conserving precious local water resources and limiting any negative impact of vegetable production on the local environment.
The Trial and Demonstration Centre, with a growing area of 3,750sq m, has been established on a plot near Agrico Farm in Al Khor.
The facility was designed and built by Agrico using technology, knowledge and expertise accumulated during 10 years of experience operating in protected agriculture in Qatar. The Centre is jointly operated by the three companies.
Currently the Centre features three different types of greenhouses.
The multispan greenhouse protected by insect net is the most affordable type and suitable for growing vegetables for 8-9 months per year. Such technology allows better protection for the plants from insects, and reduces the use of agrochemicals while providing a more suitable micro-climate for growing vegetables than in the open field.
Plastic tunnels with evaporative cooling are more expensive to build but allow better climate management inside the greenhouse and longer growing season which might last to up to 10 months per year. They are also most appropriate for small scale farming.
The third type is a multispan plastic greenhouse with evaporative cooling for achieving optimum temperature during the day and air conditioning for night time cooling in the summer.
These greenhouses allow better climate management where the growing season may last up to 11 months. All crops in the Trial and Demonstration Centre are grown in hydroponics, the soilless method of growing fruits and vegetables.
Crops are grown in substrate (for example coco coir, perlite, rock wool) that is constantly fed with nutrient solutions. This reduces the risk of plants being exposed to soil diseases and allows saving of water, fertilizers and agro-chemicals.
Yields in hydroponics are usually higher than in soil based cultivation, meaning more production using less land, fertilizers and water and the prevention of land contamination. All plants are constantly fed with nutrient solution via a drip irrigation system that precisely combines water and required nutrients.
The nutrient solution is prepared from Yara’s fertilizers and is tailored for each crop, each stage of growth and each type of greenhouse. Different irrigation regimes and recipes are managed by a specialized fertigation computer. Regular analysis of substrate, leaves, nutrient solutions and drainage water is performed in the Qafco Laboratory.
Photo credit: Qatar Fertiliser Company