South Korean developers of the “smart vertical farm” concept have expressed confidence that the technology could bring forth radical changes in the Middle East’s agricultural sector if implemented effectively.
“Officials of the Qatar National Food Security Programme have responded favourably to a presentation we have given in this regard,” South Korea’s Gyeonggi province governor, Kim Moon-soo, told Gulf Times yesterday. In Doha on a short official visit, the senior official said his team was awaiting further response from the Qatari authorities in order to move to the next phase of implementing the smart vertical farm project.
“Other countries too may have some hi-tech farming methods but ours is one of the most user-friendly options that could be successfully implemented in the Middle East where there is a shortage of arable land,” said Kim. The vertical farming system, developed in the Gyeonggi province, has advantages like the back-up of solar energy, robot-based monitoring, application of LED lights and custom-made water recycling system among others.
The system would also help combat excessively hot and humid weather through the implementation of an effective air-conditioning technology in the multi-level farms. The South Korean official was of the view that the concept would help reduce the production costs of agriculture drastically in the long-run.
“Initially one may possibly feel that importing food grains would be cheaper than producing them locally but in the long run it would not be certainly viable for a country which is depending mostly on imports to meet its growing food requirements,” he said.
The Korean governor also pointed out that huge sums were already being spent by Qatar for the desalination of water. “If such expenses are taken into consideration, vertical farming would certainly be cheaper for the country in coming years,” said Kim.
“To conserve energy, one uses renewable sources such as solar power and geothermal heat. Besides a new illumination system using natural light and LED was developed for plant cultivation.”
He explained the studies conducted by engineers had found approximately 60% energy could be saved compared to conventional structures through active and passive technologies such as insulation, chilled beam and hybrid solar and geothermal heat.
The Gyeonggi province official said the Korean developers of the vertical farms had received encouraging results from their pilot projects, each of which was backed by IT-based controlling systems. One of the farms developed under the method has as many as 10 storeys.
“Since self-sufficiency in food is one of the long-cherished goals of Qatar, we are hopeful that the local authorities would not hesitate to implement the user-friendly project that we have developed,” Kim said.
Gyeonggi Agricultural Research and Extension Services director general Jae Wook Lim, who was part of the delegation which presented a host of small and medium enterprises (SME) projects at a seminar in Doha yesterday, affirmed that the vertical farm project that their team had proposed was at least 40% cheaper than its nearest alternative.
“Moreover it requires less labour compared to options mooted by other countries,” he said. Lim also pointed out that the economic feasibility studies conducted by his teams found vertical farms could produce approximately 1,200 units of vegetables a day with a break-even point of 500 units a day commercially in a vertical farm that occupies an area of 400sqm.
The team from Korea hoped that through co-branded technology and knowhow in a localised vertical farm in Qatar with the effective co-operation between QNFSP and Gyeonggi province, it could create “more value-added products” in the Middle Eastern environment.
The industrially-advanced Gyeonggi province, which encircles the South Korean capital Seoul, houses some of the main manufacturing facilities of global companies such as as LG and Samsung.
source: Gulf Times
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