Aquaponics farms in the desert


Aquaponics farms in the desert
The 55-year-old entrepreneur Jabber Al Mazroui, has succeeded in building and managing one of the world’s largest aquaponics farms in the desert climes of the United Arab Emirates.  The facility relies on a relatively new agricultural method that uses the water in which fish are bred to provide irrigation and nutrition to a wide array of plants.
This process saves a lot of water – making it especially relevant in arid regions like the United Arab Emitates where Al Mazroui’s 4,000 square meter f manmade oasis farm is based.
 Al Mazroui, he has already begun to reap the fruits of his labor and hopes aquaponics can boom, if local farmers are ready to adjust.
Fruit and fish
Al Mazroui proudly points vs the aquaponics farms in the desert  to a wide variety of produce that’s grown inside the facility, such as  watermelon , broccoli, lettuce, aubergine, cabbage and cucumber and he is even experimenting with a papaya tree and 180-220 kilograms of tomatoes every day.
The vegetables are all-natural and pesticide-free. They are sold in big supermarkets across Abu Dhabi and some five-star restaurants in Abu Dhabi.
What makes this system even more remarkable at aquaponics farms in the desert, is the fact that it’s fully self-contained. After the water becomes too dirty for the fish, it’s moved on and broken down. The plants act as a natural filter for the water, while at the same time extracting the nutrients they need. At the end of it all, clean water moves back to the fish tanks to complete the cycle.
Looking for alternatives
When asked why he became interested in aquaponics, Al Mazroui explained that as he never liked chemical-based agriculture, he had started looking for alternatives. The small man, dressed all in white, admits that his interest in supplying sustainably-grown food did not take root during his formal schooling.
“In my youth I finished seventh grade and stopped studying, believe it or not,” Al Mazroui says. “I’m proud of what I’ve been able to achieve, studying on my own, learning a lot of things.”
Al-Mazroui sees himself as an entrepreneur, not an expert. But his hunch about the potential of aquaponics is supported by scientists in the region.
Minimising environmental impact
Jean Yves Mervel, professor of aquaculture at Al Ain University in the United Arab Emirates, says the impact of aquaponics farms in the desert on the environment is very minimal, as “there are no chemicals, no artificial fertilization, and you are re-using the water and re-using the fish waste”. He also says that aquaponics may offer an environmentally-sound source of food for a place like Abu Dhabi which currently imports nearly 90% of its food produce.
But, while aquaponics may seem to offer a fool-proof, seemingly never-ending, food source, Mervel warns that success on a large-scale has yet to be seen.
“Another issue here is that a lot of traditional farmers don’t want to change to a new system where they have to reinvest in infrastructure. Thus, the traditional agriculture is slowing down the development of this activity.” Mervel said.
Potential for the Gulf
Jabber Al Mazroui says he truly believes that aquaponics facilities like his are the future of agriculture for his country anf hopes that farms like his will develop at the same speed as the business center of Abu Dhabi, which, at the moment at least, seems to be sprouting more skyscrapers than leafy greens.
“You can use this system anywhere in the world,” he says. “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.”

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