Researchers at the International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) developed a highly efficient low-cost net house technology that can help to make horticulture significantly more feasible and make profitable agri-business in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), while saving water and energy, according to a statement from the centre.
The project aims at maximising the horticulture outputs using essential inputs related to the water-energy-food sources. It also aims at finding ways to improve water and energy use efficiency of horticultural production in local conditions.
The ICBA team completed a long-term evaluation of growing cucumber, tomato, sweet pepper, and other vegetables in a widely-used high-tech greenhouse and a traditional net house designed to cope with UAE conditions. They compared a model of greenhouse with a fan-pad cooling system and a net house model equipped with a misting system and a shade net.
Researchers discovered that greenhouse cooling is the most water-intensive process as it consumed 1.6 times more water than the amount required to irrigate cucumbers. In contrast, the misting system in the net house required about 20% of the water used to irrigate cucumbers. Data also showed that the greenhouse consumed 62 times more energy than the net house.
“Our research demonstrates that the net house can be a low-cost alternative to the common greenhouse. More importantly, this technology can help to considerably reduce energy and water consumption for vegetable production, which is a very important factor given scarce water resources. We are now working with farmers to introduce this technology on farms in the UAE,” said Aziz Hirich, a horticulture scientist at the ICBA.