Peninsula Farms, the largest greenhouse grower in the Kingdom of Bahrain:

"Bahrain: "Big potential for horticulture, but you will need the right people and the best technology"

With a high end operation of 4 hectares, Peninsula Farms is the largest greenhouse grower in the Kingdom of Bahrain. The greenhouse complex is a project by a group of Bahrain businessmen who contribute to the development of the agricultural sector in Bahrain as well as aiding the country to achieve its goal to be self sustainable in terms of local fresh produce. Sheik Rashid is the companies General Manager and recently, Grahame Dunling was hired as the full time Horticultural Development Manager after he helped the grower with a three year expansion plan for the company. Speaking to Dunling we learn that growing in the middle of the desert is a big challenge that relies on high tech equipment as well as extensive growing knowledge.

The greenhouse operation of Peninsula Farms is spread out over 40,000 m2. Divided amongst 8 greenhouses of 5,040 m2 each, they have 20,000 m2 with Cherry, Beafsteak and Plum tomatoes, 5,000 mt with Bell Peppers and another 5,000 m2 with chilly peppers. In the remaining 10,000 m2 Peninsula grows Basil, Baby Spinach, Rocket, Garden Cress and of course Mint, as well as six varieties of Lettuce, which are Lollo Rosso, Lollo Biondo, Boston, Red Oakleaf,Green Oakleaf, Frisse and Trio lettuce.

In the Kingdom of Bahrain growing in a greenhouse on such a large scale is not so common. According to Dunling, a greenhouse is a perfect way to provide local produce that is of high quality and is competitively priced when compared to imported produce in the market. "The crops locally produced will be of better quality than imported crops which are potentially damaged during transportation, storage and handling," he said. "However, you will need a lot of extensive knowledge if you want to grow in a greenhouse over here, as the day temperatures are reaching over 50 degrees Celsius in the harsh summer months."

Sheikh Rashid, General Manager of Peninsula Farms

In order to be able to grow a crop of a high quality the greenhouses of Peninsula Farms are equipped with high end technology. "We have a pad and fan cooling system in each greenhouse, in order to keep the temperature lower than the outside temperature," said Dunling. "Together with an extensive ventilation system and a climate control system from Priva, we are able to achieve a good climate inside. Energy prices are not a big cost for us, and we have our own RO water well. Right now the summer is the biggest challenge for us, but we are putting plans in place to grow through the summer in temperatures that reach 50c outside, as our customers demand a year round supply."

The greenhouses are being operated on a daily basis by Dunling who has an extensive background as a Grower & Consultant. Dunling is assisted by Edi Sugiyanto who has over 12 months experience of growing in the Middle East and the work inside the greenhouse is being carried out by local forces. They also have a sales and Marketing team led by Michael Doporto who oversees the sales and promotion of Local Bahrain Produce in the Local stores and the Middle East Region.

From left to right: General manager Sheikh Rashid, Assistant Edi Sugiyanto and Grahame Dunling, Horticultural Development Manager.

The harvested produce of Peninsula Farms is packed on site in their own temperature controlled pack-house and cold store. "We deliver to the local supermarkets such as Lulu, Geant and Carrefour in our own lorries", said Dunling. "Besides this we also supply local restaurants such as Le Chocolat and we even export produce on a weekly basis to Saudi Arabia."

According to Dunling, The Kingdom of Bahrain has got lots of potential to expand greenhouse horticulture. "There is definitely a good market, as long as you have the right people in place. You will need the right equipment and experience, because growing in the dessert is completely different from growing in Western Europe or North America. Many have set up, only to leave soon after.

Peninsula has plans for building another 10,000 square meters this year. "Again we will choose to use the latest greenhouse design from Holland and again we will be using the Priva control system, because without the best technology you are nothing over here."

For more information:
Peninsula Farms
Grahame Dunling


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