Farming technologies to business innovations under one roof
Saleh Al Mansouri started hydroponics method for palm farming only three years ago.
Abu Dhabi - Liwa Dates Festival showcases dates produced under hydroponics method.
Published: Sun 24 Jul 2016, 6:09 PM
"This is the first palm plantation in the world that works on hydroponics" reads a sign above Saleh Al Mansouri's stand. A native of Mazeirah, the largest town in Liwa Oasis, Al Mansouri participates for the first time in the Liwa Dates Festival with dates grown using hydroponics system.
An agricultural method using water enriched with nutrients instead of soil to grow plants, hydroponics was first introduced to the UAE about six years ago by the Abu Dhabi Farmers Services Centre.
"I'm a member of the centre, but I started working with hydroponics in 1999, in Singapore. In my farm, I began using hydroponics in 2010, but it was only for vegetables. Only three years ago, I planted palm saplings in hydroponics system," said Al Mansouri.
"This method allows to save 90 per cent of water," he pointed out.
The palm trees have now reached 'adulthood' and this summer they are producing their first dates. Al Mansouri has 30 palms of madjdool, khallas and dabbas varieties of dates and he brought samples of his first harvest at the festival.
"The quality of the dates is just as good as the ones grown traditionally, in soil. If you taste them, you can't tell the difference," he mentioned.
Now in its 12th year, the festival, taking place in Liwa till July 30, attracts not only some of the best quality dates in the country, but also some of the latest innovations, technologies and businesses related to date palm farming.
With 6.7 million palm trees in Abu Dhabi emirate alone, roughly 10 trees for every person, the business of date palms and their byproducts is growing every year. The latest idea on how to make money from dates comes from Talah Board, a new company with headquarters in Dubai.
The company has set up a stand at the festival, hoping to convince farmers to sell their palm waste that usually ends up in landfills or gets burned on farms (an illegal practice), to make wooden boards.
The idea is environmentally beneficial to start with, but it also makes sense financially, as locally made wooden boards would be far cheaper than imported ones.
"The idea came from our chairman, Hatem Farah, who thought why import floor boards from China or Europe, when we can make them here. Sure, we don't have forests in the region, but we have palm trees, and palm trees have very strong fiber; it is not very good for burning or composting, but it is very good for making boards," said Rami Farah, CEO of Talah Board.
The company is in the process of completing its board making factory in Kizad (Abu Dhabi emirate), which will have a capacity of producing 75.000 cubic metres of board annually.
"The palm waste boards would be too light to be used as floor boards, but are ideal for construction industry, for interior design applications and for furniture," Farah told Khaleej Times.