Currently the UAE is estimated to import around 85% of its food which understandably leaves the country open to market fluctuations and supply chain problems. The Baniyas Centre however will be capable of producing a massive 200 tonnes of fish and 300,000heads of lettuce annually, helping to reduce reliance upon importation and to improve food security for the nation.
The fish being cultivated within the system will be the aquaponic best friend, tilapia. According to reports 50,000 juvenile fish have been imported from Holland for the project. Currently the centre is focussing on the production of lettuce although in the future the system will accommodate other produce such as tomatoes, cucumbers, even okra.
The sheer scale of the centre is one of its most impressive assets. There are two main greenhouses, each with 4,000 square metres of space. The system uses a variety of tanks, filters and irrigation equipment to ensure that the fish waste is fed to the plants for nutrition and the plants purifying effects on the water can be circulated back to the fish tanks.
Naturally a key factor for the UAE is water efficiency. Fortunately the Baniyas Centre is highly efficient and uses a fraction of the water that would be required for traditional agriculture. There will be two main water tanks which hold around 400,000 litres, because of the way the system recycles water however, it is expected that the water within these tanks will remain usable for a year or more.
The system in its entirety is managed by a single water pump, adding to its water efficiency with negligible power usage in comparison to more traditional methods. Eventually it will be capable of producing in total, 450,000 kilograms of food every year, from February they are hoping to ship lettuce throughout the UAE and by May it is expected that the first fish will be dispatched to hypermarkets nationally.