Adrift in the dunes

From space, Qatar looks like a big sand bar spilling out of the Arabian Desert into the Persian Gulf. You need to zoom in close before you see anything green.

One of those few green specks in Qatar’s ocean of sand is the Al Sulaiteen Agricultural and Industrial Complex (SAIC). And it’s no mirage.

“The climate is harsh.”, admitted Muhammad Abubakr, a quality manager at SAIC. "Water is scarce and salty, and the quality of the soil is poor."

But, as Mr. Abubakr explained, the setting provides a welcome challenge: “SAIC was established in 1998 in Umm Salal Ali, Qatar, on 40 hectares, defying all these factors and challenges.”

Prolific produce

“SAIC produces about 800 tons of the finest vegetables and leafy plants throughout the year.”, said Mr. Abubakr. Offerings include juicy sweet corn, vibrant peppers, crisp lettuce, fragrant herbs, and many more fruits and vegetables.

The farm also raises ornamental plants, including about 8 million flowers each season.

Heroic feats of engineering and science

What little water is available in Umm Salal Ali is tainted with salt and not suitable for growing most crops.

“The solution was to establish a desalination plant.”, said Mr. Abubakr. Their modern reverse osmosis system is capable of producing nearly 265,000 gallons of fresh water per day. Highly efficient hydroponic growing systems help to conserve this valuable resource.

The farm also has strategies to outsmart the harsh climate.

They use the cooler “winter” season to plant in the open fields. Crops are also grown in cooled greenhouses year-round. This allows production of a wide variety of crops even on the hottest days.

Meanwhile, SAIC agronomists continue to experiment with different varieties to find those that will thrive in harsh conditions. “Choosing the right species according to the production season was one of the biggest challenges.”, said Mr. Abubakr of the farm’s earlier days.

Surviving—and thriving—in the desert

In Mr. Abubakr’s words, SAIC’s story proves “there is nothing is impossible with a strong will and good planning along with the optimal utilization of modern technology.”

As a result, “SAIC has become one of the leading farms in the production of the finest vegetables according to the international food safety standards of GLOBALG.A.P.”

SAIC is a proud participant of the GLOBALG.A.P. Around the World photo campaign 2019 and therefore part of the GLOBALG.A.P. calendar 2020.

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