Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s College of Science and Engineering and Norwegian-based firm Yara International ASA, the world leading crop nutrition company, have signed a major framework research collaboration agreement. The contract is aimed at developing research projects designed to promote academic and industry relations, contribute to the development of human capital, foster innovation and facilitate the expansion and use of state-of-the-art technology and design of food production systems in Qatar and around the world. The research projects will be primarily focused on food security, sustainable food production, energy efficiency, water management and the application of artificial intelligence within Controlled Agricultural Environments.
Controlled Agricultural Environments (CEA) is the production of plants in a protected ecosystem where optimal growing conditions are maintained throughout their life cycles. Development of Controlled Agricultural Environments is largely driven by two major factors: first is the scarcity of principal resources such as land and water, and second is the increasing demand for year-round food production to feed the rising population of the planet. In such conditions, conventional farming practices are not able to accommodate the changing reality for food demand.
CEAs range from simple netting covers to fully automated greenhouses. As CEAs allow us to better control various variables such as temperature, humidity, lights, insects and diseases, it provides higher yields and improved quality of produce. At the same time such cultivation reduces usage of land, water, fertilizers and agrochemicals.
Within the State of Qatar, which is exposed to harsh climate conditions with limited availability of agricultural land and fresh water, it is necessary to meet the demand for fresh vegetables, and to ensure sustainable and robust food supply through technologies that advance Controlled Agricultural Environments. Together with local commercial farms, Yara International has been working intensively to find the most optimal solutions for production of fresh vegetables in Qatar.
The collaboration between the college and Yara will include research in areas such as artificial intelligence, digital technology, the utilization of carbon dioxide to enhance agricultural productivity and the use of advanced methods to optimize energy and water consumption within greenhouses. These projects will contribute towards the development of sustainable and precision agriculture.
The link-up will also boost the development and application of CEAs specifically tailored for Qatar and similar climate conditions, contributing to the growth of a local talent pool and add vital expertise in the areas of sustainable development and agriculture.
Commenting on the agreement, CSE’s Assistant Professor, Dr. Tareq Al-Ansari, said: “We are delighted to link-up with Yara for this important project. This collaboration is an excellent example of industry-academia collaboration which will foster the exchange of knowledge and expertise, and contribute towards enhancing sustainable food production and food security in arid climates around the globe such as Qatar. Everyone at the College is looking forward with great enthusiasm to the collaboration and the vital work that lies ahead.”
Ivan de Witte, Head of Yara Middle East at Yara, commented: “Feeding the world embodies knowledge and requires innovative ideas to overcome the many challenges that come along with it. In Yara, we believe knowledge grows and has the power to create positive change. The challenges of the world cannot be solved by one company alone. Our collaboration with HBKU is an important step in developing our collective knowledge, ideas and expertise to deal with the challenges of sustainable food production locally and around the world”.
The College of Science and Engineering (CSE), part of Hamad Bin Khalifa University, is celebrating its most successful cycle of the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) Graduate Student Research Award (GSRA) program yet, with 17 students receiving a scholarship.