October 21, 2021

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This center in Dubai is rising ‘future-proof’ food items in the desert

3 min read

In the Dubai desert, farmers should contend with intense warmth, constrained freshwater and sandy soil. Right here, the International Heart of Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) is transplanting and developing salt-loving superfoods in an effort to increase food stuff range in the region.

“Freshwater is turning out to be additional and a lot more scarce,” points out Dionysia Angeliki Lyra, agronomist at the ICBA. “We have to emphasis on how we can make use of small-high quality, saline water methods for food stuff creation.”

Desert farming has existed for 1000’s of decades, but not all desert plants offer the diet necessary to feed the rising population. The ICBA, a not-for-profit initiative introduced in the United Arab Emirates in 1999, embarked on a mission to obtain highly nutritious crops all around the globe that could adapt to and survive in extraordinary weather situations — and prosper when grown employing seawater and brine from desalination tasks.

These days, the ICBA boasts a exceptional selection of over 13,000 seeds. The plan has released non-regular crops to the desert, these types of as quinoa from the South American Andes.

Its researchers tested around 1,200 varieties of quinoa, of which 5 can mature in these severe circumstances. Farmers in extra than 10 countries in the Middle East and North Africa are already producing the superfood, and the ICBA is now introducing it in rural communities in Central Asia.

Making water in a desert, from sunlight and air

Minimal-identified outside of some elements of Europe and North America, salicornia is a plant from the southern US that desires saline drinking water to mature. It has also been transported to the Dubai desert, where by it is flourishing. The centre deems it the “desert superhero” thanks to its adaptability and versatility. The crop is applied for food stuff creation and is becoming analyzed as a biofuel.

The ICBA currently creates about 200 kilograms of quinoa and 500 kilograms of salicornia for analysis and seeding, while also performing with a foods business in Dubai to establish salicornia-primarily based meals merchandise with the aim to raise purchaser adoption.

Lyra thinks rethinking the kinds of meals farmers grow can have a lengthy-time period impact in these environments.

Adapting for the potential

The do the job of ICBA is component of a world-wide work to discover alternate methods to develop foods, with complete meals need expected to improve concerning 59% to 98% by 2050. But with the outcomes of local climate modify already getting felt all around the globe, Joshua Katz, spouse at consulting business McKinsey & Organization, believes that much more than 1 technique will be needed to give food security in the long run.

“Feeding the world, developing foodstuff stability, giving wholesome foodstuff in a sustainable way — you can find a great deal that we’re asking of the food procedure,” he claims. “In purchase for us to provide that to our escalating inhabitants, with evolving diet plans and increasing concentration on things like sustainability and health, we’re heading to need numerous styles of generation techniques to meet up with all individuals distinctive wants or distinctive demands of the meals program.”

Salicornia-based burgers in Dubai.
The United Nations estimates 41 million people are at the moment on the brink of famine. With only 11% of the world’s land surface utilized for crop production, desert agriculture is turning out to be a real selection in harsh environments, as hundreds of thousands dwell in lands turning into desert.
Nations around the world like the UAE, which are really dependent on foodstuff imports, are progressively relying on unique technologies these kinds of as indoor vertical farms and intelligent greenhouses in the desert to raise regional foodstuff manufacturing.
This Dubai-based company wants to revolutionize how ports operate

Joshua Katz sees attempts like ICBA’s as an instance of how governments can use technologies to improve neighborhood production and get ready for the long run.

“Nations and organizations will make options about how they want to include unique escalating systems into solving (difficulties), no matter if it is their foodstuff protection or just providing area foodstuff,” he claims. “I feel we are heading to have a position for nearly every distinctive style of cropping process and every distinctive increasing method in diverse parts of the globe.”

The ICBA is now looking into adapting its system in Central Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, with the aim to deliver crop diversification and drinking water use productivity to areas with serious salinity difficulties.

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