x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

UAE farms checked for suitability for conversion to hydroponic farming

Seventy-two farms have been inspected in Sweihan to check their compactibility to be part of the Zaarie programme.

ABU DHABI // More than 70 farms have been inspected in Sweihan to check for compatibility with a new agriculture programme.

The Zaarie programme will introduce farmers to modern farming techniques, including hydroponic growing systems, helping them cope with the shortage of water and high levels of salinity in the soil.

Experts from the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development and Abu Dhabi Farmers’ Service Centre visited 72 farms over four days to check water supply levels, salinity and the availability of electricity to help introduce modern methods.

“Sweihan is a very critical area because of its unique features of being in the middle of the region and being close to the large markets of Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Dubai,” said Ahmed Al Romaithi, manager of the Zaarie programme. “Also, the farmers there show big interest in converting to hydroponic farming and to get the advantages of the Zaarie programme.”

He said some of the farmers met the criteria needed to participate in the programme and funding would commence immediately and be completed by the end of next month.

Farmers applying to the programme must have a property larger than 4,000 square metres, with water salinity not exceeding 500 parts per million. They should have enough water for eight greenhouses.

The fund will provide interest-free loans of up to Dh1 million over two years. It also includes a flexible payment schedule of up to 60 months.

One challenge they have faced so far, he said, was the short supply of electricity to farms.

He said he would speak with government entities to resolve this.

“We highly appreciate the prompt response and cooperation we received from Abu Dhabi Distribution Company which is part of Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority,” Mr Al Romaithi said.

Last month, the Khalifa Fund organised an awareness session in Sweihan for more than 40 Emiratis who wanted to learn more about the programme.

“The existing farms in Sweihan can benefit from the advantages of the programme,” he said. “Hydroponic farming techniques will reduce the side effects of weather and soil on agriculture products. In addition to the fact that conveying this technology to farming sectors can help in reducing water consumption.”

newsdesk@thenational.ae