Vertical Farming Trial Comes to Dhahran

The Dhahran Community Nursery is planning to produce 150 kilograms of fresh produce every day through a new vertical farming project that utilizes eight greenhouses and three separate hydroponic systems to grow greens, vegetables, and fruits.

Among the expected harvest will be tomatoes, strawberries, basil, lettuce, peppermint, arugula, sweet peppers, hot peppers, and eggplants.

Abdulaziz A. Al Abdulgader, manager of the vertical farming project, said gardeners plan to produce crops consisting of 60% greens, 20% other vegetables, and 20% fruits.

Water Awareness

“Environment sustainability, citizenship, and outreach to local communities is deeply integral to Aramco’s approach,” Al Abdulgader said. “Hydroponic vertical farming is one of many initiatives showing this commitment.

“Adapting this technology, which can be applied within dry environmental conditions and urban areas helps to promote water conservation awareness among employees, their families, and local communities.”

Abdulgader noted that growing global population and the loss of arable lands to development and urbanization continues to drive the need for new solutions to ensure food security.

Vertical farming is an agricultural technique to grow crops in perpendicular layers in a soilless environment with controlled temperature, light, and humidity. Benefits include less water consumption, year-round crop production, a reduction in chemical use, and a smaller transportation footprint.

Aramco is currently demonstrating vertical hydroponic farming through two sites, the one commissioned in the Dhahran Community Nursery, and another under execution in Environmental Park 3.

Addressing Challenges

With the Dhahran Community Nursery project’s three different hydroponic systems, dutch buckets are used for vine crop production; a nutrient film technique for smaller, quick growing plants such as lettuce and herbs; and tower pots for high fruit and vegetable yields in small spaces.

Working with local and international stakeholders, Aramco plans to expand these demonstrations to urban areas throughout the Kingdom so that people can appreciate fresh produce grown in their local communities.

Vertical farming technologies are relatively new in the Kingdom, and there are ongoing efforts to make it economically feasible.

The performance of vertical farming greenhouses in Dhahran will provide a better understanding of addressing agricultural challenges in the future.

— The Arabian Sun: May 5, 2021 | Vol. LXXVI, No. 18