The first cucumbers grown in the desert using seawater and solar power have been harvested in Qatar.
Samples from the inaugural crop were served to participants at UN Climate Negotiations in Doha which closed at the weekend.
After a 10-month intense construction period, invited guests enjoyed the first tours of the Sahara Forest Project pilot facility, which is a three-way co-operation featuring the Norwegian Sahara Forest Project (SFP), Norwegian agri-inputs specialist Yara and Qatari fertilizer firm Qafco. The project is an environmental initiative to produce food, water and energy in desert areas.
Norwegian environment minister Bård Vegar Solhjell, was among the first guests at the pilot facility at Measaieed Industrial City in Qatar. He said: “This is a fascinating project…You cannot believe it until you see it. Here they use what there is abundance of to create what there is the least of.”
Joakim Hauge is chief executive officer of SFP. He said: “It is designed to utilize what we have enough of to produce what we need more of, using desert, sunlight, saltwater and CO2 to produce food, water and clean energy.”
SFP entered into cooperation with Yara and Qafco last year. After completing a feasibility study on Qatar, the parties signed an agreement to build the first fully operational SFP pilot plant in Qatar.
Khalifa A. Al-Sowaidi, CEO of Qafco said: “Qafco and Yara are sponsoring this environmental project to be executed by SFP in a pilot scale to demonstrate the potential of the green technology in an arid region like Qatar using seawater and solar energy for future larger scale research and commercial platform in the area of horticulture, freshwater generation, energy production, and algae production.”
The initiative combines already existing and proven environmental technologies, including saltwater-cooled greenhouses, concentrated solar power and technologies for desert re-vegetation around a saltwater infrastructure.
Integrating the different technologies improves the performance and economics of the system compared to those of the individual components. Through establishing new vegetation in previously barren land the system also offers the potential to store considerable amounts of CO2 in new plants.
Al-Sowaidi said: “This project is expected to pave way for commercialization of this green technology for large scale implementation with a vision to produce energy, food and fresh water not only for Qatar but for tomorrow’s world population in a sustainable way.”
The pilot facility covers 10,000m2 and features saltwater-cooled greenhouses, Qatar’s first operational concentrated solar plant, the region’s largest algae research facility as well as technologies for turning the desert green.