A Qatari farm owner has urged compatriot entrepreneurs to invest in agriculture, particularly in hydroponics (the method of growing plants without soil, using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent), which he described as “a good and healthy” business.
Citing hydroponics as “the future of agriculture”, Agrico managing director Nasser Ahmed al-Khalaf told Gulf Times that Qataris who want to invest or put up a business should take advantage of such an opportunity. “I encourage them to invest in agriculture. It is not only a good business model but also something spiritual,” he said.
Agrico, a private Qatari agricultural development company established in 2011 with the aim of helping Qatar achieve food security, operates a 120,000sq m (12 hectare) organic hydroponics farm in Al Khor. The system that Agrico is developing supports small investors who want to venture into organic hydroponics farming. Initially, the company has an infrastructure enough to support a 1mn sq m of land.
Al-Khalaf said part of their support to investors include supplying healthy plants, building greenhouses with very high quality materials at a reasonable cost. “We operate for them, we teach them how to manage, how to grow the plant without using pesticides, how to use the organic fertilisers, and how to use the irrigation system,” he explained. “We teach them for free all the steps that we have learned in a very costly way.”
The farm owner added that they are also ready to help investors to market and distribute the products to various outlets.
Another advantage in investing in agriculture, he said, is that it was further boosted by the ongoing economic blockade imposed by some Gulf Arab states. The current situation served as a golden opportunity for local farms to unlock their full potential and focus on further increasing their production. The Qatar government and Qatar Development Bank are also fully supporting the agriculture sector to achieve food security, al-Khalaf noted.
To help achieve this goal, he said they developed a one-of-its-kind (Qatari-designed) system, which can grow more vegetables and fruits year-round, even during the summer season. “It is a Qatari greenhouse and in terms of quality and cost, it is better and competitive than others. It is a proof that we can build our own technology capable of producing vegetables and fruits for 12 months nonstop, and all organic,” he said. “This is an exactly ideal model that you can have in agriculture production in the worst conditions in the world. European is good for Europe but not in Qatar,” al-Khalaf pointed out.
The company is also working on a project to build similar systems designed for backyard farming. Al-Khalaf said he built a small hydroponics greenhouse for a resident, which is expected to start producing after a month. “Previously he only planted for four months or six months maximum. Now, he will have enough vegetables and fruits for the rest of his life,” he said. “He will eat his own produce all year long, which is very healthy.