The College of Science and Engineering (CSE) at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) and Norwegian-based firm Yara International ASA – the leading crop nutrition company in the world – recently signed a major framework research collaboration agreement to develop research projects for food production systems in Qatar and around the world.  

The research projects will be focused primarily on food security, sustainable food production, energy efficiency, water management and the application of artificial intelligence within Controlled Agricultural Environments (CAE).

CAE 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: scarcity of principal resources such as land and water, and 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.

CAE range from simple netting covers to fully automated greenhouses. It allows better control of various variables such as temperature, humidity, lights, insects and diseases; it provides higher yields and improved quality of produce. It also reduces usage of land, water, fertilisers 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 CAE.

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 HBKU and Yara will include research in areas such as artificial intelligence, digital technology, the utilisation of carbon dioxide to enhance agricultural productivity and the use of advanced methods to optimise 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 CAE that are specifically tailored for Qatar and for areas with similar climate conditions, contributing to the growth of a local talent pool and adding vital expertise in the areas of sustainable development and agriculture.

CSE Assistant Professor, Dr Tareq Al Ansari, said they are delighted to link-up with Yara for this important project. He said that the 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.

According to Head of Yara Middle East Ivan de Witte, their collaboration with HBKU is an important step in developing a collective knowledge, ideas and expertise to deal with the challenges of sustainable food production locally and around the world.

For updates and more information about the collaboration, visit cse.hbku.edu.qa or yara.com.