Dubai: The agricultural landscape witnessed a 15 per cent increase in organic greenhouse farming last year in the UAE as farmers are being urged to move away from traditional farming techniques and go in for water-saving options.

Farming in greenhouses helps save water by reducing evaporation in hot temperatures and also gives organic farming a boost as crops can be better monitored.

According to the Ministry of Environment and Water, over the last four years, the total area of organic farms reached 2,196 acres in 2010 compared to 110 acres in 2007. The quantity of organic produce reached 5,268 tonnes in 2010, a huge increase from 264 tonnes in 2007.

Dr Nasser Al Mohammad Sultan, Assistant Undersecretary for Agricultural Affairs, said there is a global increase of organic agriculture.

Demand for ‘safe' food

Demand for "safe" food that does not contain pesticide or chemical residues, minimises environment degradation and protects the biodiversity of soil, has pushed organic farming and crops into a billion-dollar industry, he said.

Becky Balderstone, owner of Ripe, previously known as Bumble Box, a straight-to-your-door organic produce supplier, agreed that organic farming in the UAE is on the increase, but so far Ripe sources its vegetables from only two Abu Dhabi farms.

"Supermarkets never used to supply the amount of organic, local vegetables that they do now, it's incredible what's available," she said.

"Farmers start planting in September and by mid-October you will be able to see pumpkins, leeks, peppers and all sorts. It's not just cucumbers and onions any more," she said.

Most farmers are using plastic greenhouses, with just a few able to invest in glass greenhouses.

Balderstone added that organics has grown rapidly — thanks to the time spent in educating farmers on how to grow farm products economically by adopting water-saving methods.