UAE university to harvest fresh vegetables as on-campus hydroponic farm is announced

'Harvesting Hope' utilises nutrient-rich water to grow plants, eliminating the need for soil


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Thu 14 Sep 2023, 1:25 PM

Last updated: Thu 14 Sep 2023, 11:29 PM

In the heart of the UAE, nestled amidst the desert sands and futuristic skylines, a Sharjah university, has embarked on a truly unique and sustainable farming endeavour, dubbed, 'Harvesting Hope.'

The American University of Sharjah (AUS) has launched a hydroponic farming initiative that allows students to delve into the latest developments in agricultural technology while also enjoying the nutritional produce from the farm.

The fledgling initiative between the AUS student chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology (IEEE SIGHT) and The Big Heart Educational Center in Sharjah also strives to empower marginalised students from diverse national backgrounds in the UAE.

With a primary emphasis on addressing issues related to illiteracy, Sara Walid, a senior mechanical engineering student, Chair of IEEE SIGHT and student project leader, said, “The significance of hydroponics lies in the ability to cultivate plants in nutrient-rich water solutions, eliminating the need for soil. The establishment of hydroponic systems on the AUS campus enables workshops that educate students on optimal plant growth practices, covering topics such as system assembly, potential hydrogen testing, light-emitting diode and water pump configurations and nutrient solution management.”

“The resulting produce will serve as both a hands-on learning tool and a source of fresh, nutritious vegetables, enhancing daily meals,” she added.

With financial support from the IEEE Humanitarian Technologies Best Practices and Projects Committee, the project monitors its advancement by conducting frequent evaluations and involving students at The Big Heart Educational Center in interactive Kahoot quizzes. This approach ensures that students not only comprehend but also effectively apply the concepts presented.

'Harvesting Hope' aligned to COP 28 UAE

Meanwhile, Harvesting Hope is aligned with the UAE's commitment to achieving Net Zero emissions by 2050 and corresponds to the goals set for the upcoming COP28 summit.

Safwan Khan, a senior electrical engineering student, and former Chair and current Vice Chair of the IEEE SIGHT AUS Chapter, said, “Hydroponics maximise resource utilisation, minimise environmental impact and potentially increase crop yields. This innovative project not only aligns with our commitment to sustainable technology but also holds great significance in the upcoming COP28 UAE Conference. By fostering sustainable farming practices through hydroponics, we are contributing to the UAE's efforts in addressing pressing environmental challenges and showcasing our nation's dedication to a greener future.”

One of the heads at the varsity highlights that the university is dedicated to supporting the UAE's sustainability endeavours through robust initiatives and active faculty engagement.

He said this pioneering effort allows communities to assume control of their food production while alleviating the burden on the Earth's resources by connecting technology and agriculture.

"We are privileged to have set up one of the first IEEE SIGHT student groups in the GCC that furthers the goals of humanitarian causes in the local community," said Dr Imran Zualkernan, Professor and Head of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering who also serves as the IEEE SIGHT Chapter advisor and project lead.


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