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Ambassador report

Ambassador report

[Ambassador report] Making the desert bloom: hydroponics farming and the future of agriculture

by Alice Ervaz | 06-12-2019 22:39 Comments 5 Comments recommendations 0 recommendations

Dubai is a city of fleeting pleasures, built on petrodollars, outrageously expensive five-star hotels and a constant flow of Indian seasonal workers hoping to find a better life within the shimmering maze-like alleys of the capital of the UAE. If you sit in a café, either eating typical luqaimat or some more globalized double-butter caramel-doused Cinnabons, you can easily spot gorgeous women donning lavish hijabs holding colorful shopping bags and nervous, artificially-tanned managers shouting in their phones about meetings, deadlines and KPIs. Even if the city is located in the middle of the Arab Gulf, it is not a panorama dissimilar to the one you might see in financial hubs the likes of Taipei or New York.


While Dubai’s facade might as well be alluring with its sensual vices and exotic skylines, it is still donning a pristine, luxurious mask that hides the underlying contradictions of such a rapidly-changing city. Having been founded in a desertic land, it was clear since the start that providing supplies for the city would have been a great challenge, especially taking into account the massive flow of capital and people that determined the city’s economic boom in the previous ten years. Given the lack of natural resources in the area, the totality of the food in Dubai is imported – making the average western lifestyle in the city extremely expensive to lead. Yet, at the eve of 2020, change seems to be finally coming for the food industry of the city – in the form of, well, lettuce.


If you happen to belong to the so-called boomer generation and to be a space-opera enthusiast, the concept of growing plants in adverse conditions might not be a novelty to you, especially if you have a soft spot for the concept of terraforming. But, at this point of the reading, you might be wondering what the luxurious capital of the UAE, cheap Caesar Salads and the barren Martian ecosystem have in common – lo and behold, enter hydroponic farming. Having been first hypothesized in the 17th century and rediscovered in the sixties through NASA experiments to start agricultural activities on the hostile surface of the Red Planet, this technique has registered a revival in recent years due to FAO’s advocation on its behalf.


The system is quite simple to implement, and it is based on the ability to grow plants by substituting soil with mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent. To render this type of culture even more sustainable, many pioneers have resorted to more natural solutions to release nutritive substances into the water, such as duck manure or fish excrements. The quirk of hydroponics farming is the possibility of creating metallic horizontal shelves in which the water solution is contained and “stack” them vertically in order to diminish the space required for the plants to grow – and this is especially handy if your culture is supposed to be grown in an urban landscape.


And this is exactly what Dubai is doing right now, planning to build the largest urban hydroponics farm in the world in order to supply freshly-plucked vegetables to its dwellers and tourists. Emirates Flight Catering and sustainable technology platform Crop One Holdings have partnered up a 130,000-square-foot facility equivalent to 900 acres of farmland. If the project is successful, the plant will earn 5.3 tons of leafy greens a day that will render the country far less reliable on imported goods.


Sounds too good to be true? You are not alone. While the estimated ROI is indeed quite high, one must keep into account that the initial investment for such a system is cumbersome indeed – and claims about the doubted organicity of the produced food are becoming increasingly widespread. However, one must take into account that, given the more and more unpredictable weather conditions caused by climate change, urban agriculture might become a more viable solution to outdoor crops, especially when subsistence of small communities is related to that. In the future, even if other governments might decide to follow Dubai’s example, it does not mean that humankind is allowed to turn Earth into an inhospitable Martian landscape.




hydroponics in the desert


Hyeongmin Mentor

  • Hyeongmin Mentor says :
    Hello Alice

    Thank you for the detailed explanation about the situation in Dubai.
    Every time I see the pictures of Dubai, I was fascinated by the appearance of the modern city. However, after reading your report, I could learn about some contradictions lying under the beautiful city.
    Fortunately, I can see that there is a excellent solution to the problem. I hope the new technology is implemented in great success and make the living of people Dubai easier than before.

    Thank you for the great report.
    Posted 12-12-2019 06:51

Lisa Mentor

  • Lisa Mentor says :
    Hey Alice!
    This is your mentor Lisa.

    Hydroponic.. hm!!!
    This is a topic that I am definitely not familiar with and thus I never really had a chance to think about it!
    Now that you mention it, I did a bit of research myself on the topic and was just amazed at how this might be an alternative way of farming in the near future!
    My country Korea is not yet familiar with the method but I can see that some countries are already very deeply engaged in this.

    Thanks for bringing up such an interesting topic and keep up the good work dear:)
    Posted 09-12-2019 16:50

Manisha  Upadhaye

  • Manisha Upadhaye says :
    Hi Alice,
    thanks for your informative report on hydroponics farming :)
    Posted 07-12-2019 13:56

Kushal Naharki

  • Kushal Naharki says :
    Hello Alice

    I do hope that you are fine and doing great with your works.
    Thank you for your report about Making the desert bloom: hydroponics farming and the future of agriculture

    Green Cheers from Nepal :)
    Keep writing great reports.
    We are eager to read more reports from you.

    Kushal Naharki

    Posted 07-12-2019 12:43

Prabha Bhusal

  • Prabha Bhusal says :
    Hello Alice,
    Thanks for pointing out about desert blooming and hydroponics farming.
    Thank you!
    Posted 07-12-2019 00:39

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