The United Arab Emirates is known for its hot and arid desert climate that can reach temperatures of 50°C (122°F) during the day. This harsh, unforgiving, desert climate means that the UAE is unable to produce most of its own food. Aquaculture expert Jabber Al Mazroui hopes to change that by building one of the world's largest aquaponics farms, spanning 4000 square meters in size.
Al Mazroui's facility is located 20 miles from Abu Dhabi's city center, and he grows a variety of fruits and vegetables, including broccoli, lettuce, aubergine and cucumber. The system is capable of producing 1,200 heads of lettuce per day, and Al Mazroui is even experimenting with growing watermelon. Vegetables grown at this facility are sold in supermarkets across Abu Dhabi, and Al Mazroui has even been approached by some five-star restaurants looking for a source of local produce.
Al Mazroui's facility is a fully self-sustaining ecosystem, with the plants feeding off the fish waste and acting as a natural filter for the water. By naturally filtering his facility's water, Al Mazroui uses considerably less water than conventional agriculture systems. In addition, there are no chemicals or fertilizers used in aquaponics systems, and water and fish waste are reused in the miniature ecosystem.
Tilapia ponds help maintain the balance of the ecosystem.
Aquaponics systems may be the future of agriculture for countries like the UAE, where conventional agriculture techniques would be ineffective considering the climate and soil conditions. The beauty of aquaponics, as Al Mazroui remarked, is that - you can use it in the desert, you can use it in the most severe areas of the world because you are re-using the water. And, you are producing fish and plants together.
Aquaponics systems like Al Mazroui's may very well change the future of agriculture, and he hopes that others will follow his example in the future.
Cover photo source: https://nicolesyblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/abudhabi_8049_Edit_131026.jpg