Chinese team brings fresh vegetables to Qatar desert

(People's Daily Online) 16:53, December 09, 2022

Four years ago, two young men from China started to try planting vegetables in the desert in Qatar. Today, vegetables supplied by a farm operated by a vegetable planting team that they lead are adding flavor to the ongoing 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The farm, located in a desert, is particularly busy these days, as the vegetable planting team has reached agreements with large markets on supplying 400 to 500 kilograms of vegetables during the World Cup, and for the last two months has been working to ensure the farm reaches its peak production capacity during the event.

Photo shows the vegetable farm in Qatar run by Gao Yuntao. (Photo/CMG China Voice)

"We also provide home delivery services for our members. We can make sure our newly picked vegetables are delivered to stores or people's homes within two hours," said Gao Yuntao, founder of the vegetable planting team.

As Qatar is located in the tropical desert, it imports most of its vegetables and fruits, and used to have to import all of its green vegetables.

In recent years, Qatar has rolled out a national strategy on food and vegetable security, and decided to introduce key technologies from major vegetable producing countries including China to improve its vegetable self-sufficiency rate.

"Vegetables were very expensive in Qatar. The country used to import 99.9 percent of its green vegetables like bok choy, lettuce, and spinach. So I came up with the idea of planting vegetables here," Gao said.

After obtaining his master's degree, Gao started his entrepreneurial journey to Qatar, and began exploring the possibility of planting vegetables in the desert.

After painstaking effort, they finally became the first team to successfully plant vegetables in Qatar.

Some people from other countries tried planting green vegetables in Qatar more than 10 years ago, but all of them failed.

Gao Yuntao, founder of a team that runs a vegetable farm in Qatar. (Photo/CMG China Voice)

Due to the harsh climatic conditions, it wasn't all plain sailing for Gao's team on their journey. The team had to go through a long trial-and-error process before finding the right seeds.

According to Gao, the team tried 45 kinds of seeds from seven countries before deciding on the right seeds for pak choi, which is now one of the farm’s most successful products.

Unlike most farms, the one Gao and his partner have built uses abandoned shipping containers to plant all of its vegetables. The containers have been converted into smart plant factories with LED lights and can maintain interior temperatures of between 22 and 28 degrees Celsius, thanks to advanced vegetable planting technologies provided by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS).

In recent years, an expert team jointly set up by experts from the Institute of Urban Agriculture (IUA) of the CAAS and other research institutes and enterprises has developed key technologies and methods for planting vegetables, including technologies related to LED light sources and controlling temperature and humidity, as well as methods such as growing plants in nutrient solutions and stereoscopic cultivation, said Qi Zhiyong, chief scientist of the innovation team of the IUA.

Since achieving initial success in planting vegetables in the desert, the farm has increased its number of containers from five to 60 and also built greenhouses. Meanwhile, the number of vegetable varieties growing on the farm has risen from two to more than 30.

Photo shows the interior of the vegetable farm in Qatar run by Gao Yuntao. (Photo/CMG China Voice)

Since they can be delivered promptly and are fresher and cheaper than imported vegetables, the farm’s products are widely popular in Qatar. They are now supplied to local supermarkets and served on the dining tables of more than 800,000 East Asian and Southeast Asian people in Qatar.  

(Web editor: Hongyu, Du Mingming)


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