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Yara, Qafco and The Sahara Forest Project creates an oasis of environmental technologies

Qatar: Green growth taking root in the desert

The first cucumbers grown in the desert using seawater and solar power were served to participants at UN Climate Negotiations in Doha. After a ten-month intense construction period, invited guests enjoyed the first tours of the Sahara Forest Project pilot facility, realized by Yara, Qafco and The Sahara Forest Project.

The Norwegian Minister of the Environment, Bård Vegar Solhjell, was among the first guests at the pilot facility inside Mesaieed Industrial City in Qatar.

The Norwegian Minister of the Environment on guided tour at Sahara Forest Project Pilot Facility in Qatar. From left: Bård Vegar Solhjell, The Minister of the Environment, Khalifa A. Al-Sowaidi, CEO of QAFCO and Joakim Hauge, CEO of Sahara Forest Project.

The Sahara Forest Project is a new environmental solution to produce food, water and energy in desert areas. “It is designed to utilize what we have enough of to produce what we need more of, using deserts, sunlight, saltwater and CO2 to produce food, water and clean energy,” says Joakim Hauge, CEO of Sahara Forest Project.

“This is a fascinating project,” states an impressed Norwegian Minister of the Environment. - It's almost like you cannot believe it until you see it. Here they use what there is abundance of to create what there is the least of," says Bård Vegar Solhjell, The Minister of the Environment.

Innovative partnership

In 2011 The Sahara Forest Project AS entered into cooperation with Yara International ASA, the world’s largest supplier of fertilizer and the Qatari company Qafco, the world’s largest single site producer of urea and ammonia. After successfully completing a comprehensive feasibility study on Qatar, the parties signed an agreement to build the first fully operational Sahara Forest Project Pilot Plant in Qatar.

“QAFCO and Yara are sponsoring this Environmental Project to be executed by Sahara Forest Project in a pilot scale to demonstrate the potential of the Green Technology in arid region like Qatar using seawater and solar energy for future larger scale research and commercial platform in the area of Horticulture, Freshwater generation, Energy Production, Algae Production,” says Khalifa A. Al-Sowaidi, CEO of QAFCO.

"The Sahara Forest Project collaboration is a perfect fit to Yara's agenda of developing sustainable solutions, creating value for us as a company as well as to society. We have to accept that businesses have to operate in a more sustainable way, and I believe innovative partnerships such as the one with Sahara Forest Project are vital to trigger this development," says Ole Jørgen Haslestad, CEO of Yara International ASA.

The Sahara Forest Project combines already existing and proven environmental technologies, including saltwater-cooled greenhouses, concentrated solar power (CSP) and technologies for desert revegetation around a saltwater infrastructure. The synergies arising from integrating the technologies improve the performance and economics of the system compared to those of the individual components. Through establishing new vegetation in previously barren land the system also offers the potential to store considerable amounts of CO2 in new plants.

“This project is expected pave way for commercialization of this green technology for large scale implementation with a vision to produce energy, food and fresh water not only for Qatar but for tomorrow’s world population in a sustainable way,” says Al-Sowaidi.

"Innovation is essential to address the global challenges. The Sahara Forest Project creates a new approach to the combined issues of food, energy, fresh water and climate change," says Haslestad.

“The partnership with Yara and Qafco is very constructive and we look forward to developing our cooperation further,” says Hauge

Sahara Forest Project was presented at the official UN side event Feature Hour at COP18. From left: Kjetil Stake, Managing Director of Sahara Forest Project, Joakim Hauge, CEO of Sahara Forest Project and Michael Pawlyn, Founding Partner of Sahara Forest Project. Photo: Penny Wang/COP18/CMP8

Only an hour drive from the pilot facility, the UN climate negotiations (COP18) took place in Doha.

“The Sahara Forest Project sets out to inspire the delegates as a positive and innovative solution to fight climate change,” says Hauge.

Sahara Forest Project gained considerable attention at COP18 and was presented at two official UN side events at COP18.

The guests at the pilot facility, mainly delegates at the COP18, were shown around on the 10,000 sqm facility where they learn about the unique saltwater-cooled greenhouses, Qatar’s first operational Concentrated Solar Plant, the region’s largest algae research facility as well as technologies for turning the desert green.

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