One of the region’s major free zones focused on innovation, the Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park (SRTI Park) has been researching breakthrough technologies, such as hydroponics and aquaponics to help enhance the country’s productivity and assure the region’s food security.
SRTI has been harnessing technology for agricultural production and food security across UAE. It developed hydroponics and Merlin Agrotunnel, an aquaponics farm that combines raising fish and cultivating plants in tanks with an area of around 150 square meters located inside SRTI Park that can produce over one ton of organic vegetables and fruits every month.
Hydroponics has a relatively high initial cost, but it significantly reduces water usage, saving about 70 percent of water and requiring less or no fertilizers, making it ideal for cultivating plants in a desert environment with limited agricultural space and water resources.
Meanwhile, aquaponics is a type of agriculture that combines the raising of fish in tanks (aquaculture) with the cultivation of plants without the use of soil (hydroponics). Plants benefit from the nutrient-rich water used in fish farming since it acts as a natural fertilizer, and the plants help to filter the water for the fish.
“SRTI Park is a hub for researchers, entrepreneurs, startups and industry experts who develop solutions that can shape food production not only in the UAE but also globally. Indoor farming eliminates extreme outdoor temperatures and makes particular sense in our desert environment. We use very little water about 90 percent less than conventional farming and because it is aquaponics and hydroponics, we also produce fresh fish along with a range of vegetables and fruits.”
It is also worth noting that the water used to irrigate the fruits and vegetables is seawater that has been desalinated using solar energy, completing the development of an integrated system that ensures the long-term viability of UAE’s natural resources.
Mr. Al Mahmoudi also noted a team of botanists, agriculturists and engineers from Merlin International, has been conducting researches to develop a soil-free vertical cultivation technology that is the ideal way to produce sustainable food in a land-scarce environment.