New results are in from the Sahara Forest Project, supported by Yara and Qafco, to turn the desert green using environmental technologies.
The pilot project´s September report shows that revegetation of the desert using the Sahara Forest Project (SFP) technologies could be launched cost-effectively already in 2014, creating the opportunity for large scale farming in Qatar.
"The Qatar pilot project has now gone through a full seasonal year of operation and this is a good time to enable design and cost estimation, through understanding equipment costs and durability of a large scale station, and examine the Sahara Forest Project (SFP) closely as a business case - how it could perform when scaled up," says Yara Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Pierre Herben.
"In any event, we can say it has been a remarkable success, particularly in attracting attention for Yara as an innovative and environmentally concerned company. The Qatar pilot was completed in record time, just in time for the Doha Climate Change Conference - COP18, and most of the concept’s ambitions have been tested and confirmed,” he adds.
Innovation to tackle food security, resource scarcity and climate change
Yara’s Creating Impact strategy seeks (business) opportunities via tackling food security, resource scarcity and climate
change. The SFP is an exploration of new concepts that answers this in one integrated agricultural platform.
"We already have experience combining resources from our plants - CO2, energy, water - with greenhouses in Sluiskil, enabling the generation of food, biomass and employment. The Sahara Forest Project is a radical step in this direction," Herben says.
Results set the path for future SFP projects worldwide
The project's September report concludes that the pilot has succeeded both as a research facility, and a demonstration of the SFP concept.
The uniqueness of the concept lies in bringing out the potential that exists in the synergies between technologies across industry sectors. The Sahara Forest Project does this by combining already existing and proven environmental technologies, such as solar power, saltwater cooled greenhouses and technologies for establishing vegetation in arid areas. In this way The Sahara Forest Project is designed to utilize what we have enough of, to produce what we need more of, using deserts, sunlight, saltwater and CO2 to produce food, water and clean energy.
The greenhouse facility is performing well, with high cucumber productivity achieved, outdoor crops thriving, and the integrated technologies appearing robust enough to sustain large-scale operation. Business and media interest have been high, and 'increased with the proven operational success', the report said.
"The pilot shows that providing water, and some evaporative cooling capacity to temper the surrounding areas, enables the growth of plants like barley or rucola (rocket salad) in the sand," Herben told the Brazilian magazine Revista Rural. "The pilot will provide factual evidence and contribute to the modelization of such revegetation processes."
“Hopefully, the data collected during nearly a year of the Qatar pilot facility operation will be useful to scale up the concept to large commercial operations,” Herben says.