As part of its continued knowledge-sharing efforts, the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) recently organized a four-day training course on integrated agri-aquaculture systems for desert environments for a diverse group of UAE-based researchers, extension staff and farmers.
Funded by the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), the training course brought together participants from several emirates and included both classroom and field sessions.
Held on 29 April - 2 May 2019, the training course focused on ICBA’s technology and experience in using reject brine in integrated systems for farming fish and resultant nutrient-enriched aquaculture effluents for irrigating halophytic forages and vegetables like Salicornia.
During the training course, participants also visited Swing Fish Farm in Al Ain, a unique operation where integrated farming is effectively practiced. Owned by Mr. Abdulrahman Rashid Alshamsi, an Emirati farmer, the farm in the middle of the desert produces vegetables, fish, livestock, and poultry. With the help of ICBA scientists, the farm uses reject brine from its desalination units for fish and then water from fish ponds is used to grow halophytes.
As part of the training course, participants also learned about how drones can help in agriculture and observed a field demo of how drones are used for data acquisition.
“I would like to thank ICBA for giving me this opportunity to learn about integrated agri-aquaculture systems in the UAE. During our visit to ICBA in Dubai and the farm in Al Ain, we were able to learn how reject brine from desalination units is applied to grow fish and salt-tolerant vegetables and forages,” said Ms. Salama Mohammad Al Hajeri, one of the participants of the training course who works as a researcher at the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority.
Another participant, Mr. Saif Khalfan Al Mansouri, of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, said: “The training course by ICBA was a great learning experience. I only knew about some grasses for camels grown in the UAE; but through this training course, I was able to learn about integrated farms in the UAE, which include forages, vegetables, fish, livestock, and poultry ― all growing in one place.”
The integrated agri-aquaculture approach helps to use marginal water resources to grow alternative crops and thus enhance food, nutrition and income security of rural communities.
Capacity development and knowledge dissemination are an integral part of ICBA’s work, benefiting farmers, agricultural workers, in-country researchers, government and private-sector stakeholders. Since its formation in 1999, ICBA has trained thousands of people from around 75 countries (including 700 from the UAE), as well as provided numerous fellowship and internship opportunities to young professionals.