Emirati Saleh Mohammad Yarouf Al Mansouri shows a rice variety he is growing using hydroponics. He is one of exhibitors at the on-going Liwa Dates Festival 2015, an agricultural event which ends on July 30. Image Credit: WAM

Western Region: Emirati Saleh Mohammad Yarouf Al Mansouri has demonstrated his amazing green thumb by growing rice in the desert.

On Friday, he exhibited an exciting experiment that could potentially help beat hunger especially in the world's arid regions. He is planting rice in his farm in Liwa, an oasis in the UAE's south-western region.

And his new experiment is starting to bear fruit using a water-efficient farming method called hydroponics.

Al Mansouri has been growing vegetables and fruits too, which he brought for everyone to see at the on-going Liwa Dates Festival 2015, an annual event which ends on July 30.

The Emirati farmer had been using hydroponics to grow vegetables for years.

Hydroponics is a branch of hydro-culture which employs a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions directly in water -- without soil, according to the official agency WAM.

Many commercial farms in the UAE had been using hydroponics for decades now to grow everything from strawberries to celery for both local and export markets.

But Al Mansouri has now taken it to higher pitch -- by demonstrating he can also grow and harvest rice too -- potentially helping solve land and water scarcity for the cultivation of rice.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), based in Los Banos, Philippines, estimates that up to 20 million hectares of irrigated rice fields may suffer from water scarcity by 2025.

Japanese researchers at the Chiba University estimate that global production of rice, a staple for much of Asia, must increase by more than 50 per cent before 2050 to satisty an expected spike in demand by the world's growing population.


The Emirati farmer said he started his experiments back in 2010 by planting various types of vegetables and other plants in his Liwa farm.

As the experiments proved to be a complete success, Al Mansouri decided to grow the vegetables in commercial quantities.

At the festival, Al Mansouri is exhibiting other fruits which he grew using the same method -- such as pineapples, papayas, nectarines, oranges, black and blue berries and grapes.

Then he started planting rice and is now exhibiting his hydroponic rice product samples at the agro-industrial event.

Al Mansouri's passion for hydroponics makes him believe this modern food production method could be used on a much larger scale over the coming years, through the use of a smart irrigation system.

He also urged other farmers to try and use it. "Some farmers," Al Mansouri said, "believe this method is complicated and costly ... and that is not true."

Hay from rice could also potentially boost local production of animal fodder, which could help the local dairy industry.