What is in this article?:
- UA, Saudi Arabia partner for sustainable farming
- Business model
- Faculty members from the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences are teaming up with partners at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, or KAUST, on the Red Sea Coast, north of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in a sustainable farming effort.
Fitzsimmons is advising on the creation of sustainable shrimp farms and caged fish farming in the Red Sea. He has worked with farmers to integrate seaweeds that absorb nutrients from shrimp waste to create a more sustainable farming method.
“This is something I pioneered in Indonesia after the tsunami – trying to restore the industry and make it more sustainable as we rebuild Sumatra,’’ he said.
The Red Sea has been devastated by overfishing. Creating sustainable methods of shrimp farming and cage farming of amberjacks, snappers, groupers, small tunas and other fish will create food for people and jobs for fishermen while protecting the Red Sea, Fitzsimmons said.
Edward Glenn, professor of soil, water and environmental science at the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has helped KAUST to obtain halophytes – plants that tolerate high salinity and can be raised as crops irrigated with seawater. One idea is to utilize effluent from shrimp farms to grow plant crops that can be used for direct human consumption, animal forage, or vegetable oil.
Murat Kacira, associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is advising KAUST on designing efficient, sustainable greenhouses for growing crops in arid and semi-arid lands.
Since the region is hot and humid with little rain, Kacira and Gene Giacomelli, director of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center, are charged with helping to create systems that can generate power for greenhouses using solar energy, cool and dehumidify the air and use minimal amounts of water.
Kacira will be advising on crop sensing and monitoring systems. He also is helping to select crops for the greenhouses. Lettuce, spinach, tomatoes and strawberries will grow in floating hydroponic systems or other media to minimize water and nutrient use, Kacira said.
A goal of the collaboration is to develop a business model and marketing approach that can be used by growers throughout the world, he added.
“Our goal is to come up with a profitable and economically feasible system which could be adapted and expanded in arid and semi-arid regions to feed the people,” Kacira said. “The big picture is food, energy and water.”