Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Yalman Khan, left, the chief executive of Agricel, and Kunal Wadhwani, a board member, show the technology in Dubai.
Yalman Khan, left, the chief executive of Agricel, and Kunal Wadhwani, a board member, show the technology in Dubai.

Soil-less crops that produce more food using less water

New agricultural technology from Japan promises to require a tenth of the water used in conventional farming.

DUBAI // New agricultural technology from Japan promises to require a tenth of the water used in conventional farming.

Agricel, founded four years ago by the Japanese scientist Dr Yuichi Mori of Waseda University, grows crops without soil. Dr Mori claims it produces up to 50 per cent more food than traditional methods.

The plants are watered through a film with tiny holes. The key, says Dr Mori, is that the holes are big enough for water to pass through, but not disease-causing organisms such as viruses and bacteria.

"It's like a thin gel so it keeps the water and nutrients inside the film," said Yalman Khan, the chief executive of Agricel.

"The plants' roots attach themselves to it and suck up all the water and nutrients through the film. It's a new way of producing food."

And the company says it can be used for many crops including lettuce, chillies, melons and herbs.

It says the technology also saves fertiliser, using only a fifth as much as conventional systems.

In 2009, the company set up a 400 square metre test facility to produce cherry tomatoes in Sharjah. After six months, they were growing good, sweet tomatoes thanks to the UAE's constant sunlight.

"We named them Arabian rubies," said Kunal Wadhwani, a board member of the company.

"This is going to revolutionise farming because it's something that produces food faster, of better quality and more nutritional."

Dr Deborah Schlichting, an economist at Solvus Economics in Abu Dhabi, said the technology could be useful here.

"The private sector in the UAE is investing in interesting technologies to produce food, and this is one of them," Dr Schlichting said.

"The UAE could achieve a reasonable proportion of domestic production of green-leaf vegetables with technologies and it's important for the country to be able to localise its food production."


Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

On our sixth birthday, today’s news told visually

Today in print, we are doing something different: we use only photos, graphics, illustrations and headlines to capture the news in a one-off collector’s edition.

 Rolling out the structure for the set. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

Star Wars: Episode VII evidence in Abu Dhabi desert

After more than a week of speculation, The National has what are believed to be the first photos of a Star Wars shoot in the Abu Dhabi desert.

 Amir Khan, during a workout at the Gloves Community Centre on March 24, 2014 in Bolton, England, says his fight will be the real main event in Las Vegas on May 3. Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Amir Khan says bout with Luis Collazo ‘will steal the show’ in Las Vegas on May 3

British-Pakistani boxer Amir Khan says his fight with Luis Collazo will be the main attraction on same fight card led by Floyd Mayweather Jr and Marcos Maidana, writes Omar Al Raisi.

 Hassan Abdullah, who goes by the name Abu Mahmoud, an Emirati fisherman, poses for a portrait at the Al Rughayalat Port. Abu Mahmoud was born and raised in Fujairah city and has been working as a fisherman since 1968. “I’m a shark man”, he says, “I was born in the sea.” Silvia Razgova / The National

In pictures: Fishing communities in the Northern Emirates

Fishermen in Fujairah and Umm Al Qaiwain worry that new regulations to protect fish stocks are harming their trade. We look at both communities through the lens of our photographers.

 The cast of Fast & Furious 7, including Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel, centre, on set at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Fast & Furious 7 filming in full swing at Emirates Palace

Filming for Fast & Furious 7 has started and we have the first photos of the cast and crew on set at Emirates Palace hotel this morning. Visitors staying at Emirates Palace say they have been kept away from certain areas in the grounds.

 Al Maryah Island will host the 114-hectare Abu Dhabi Global Market free zone. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

In pictures: Al Maryah Island rises in Abu Dhabi

Al Maryah has been chosen as the site for Abu Dhabi’s first financial free zone, the Abu Dhabi Global Market, and construction activity in the island has been at a fast pace.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National