EXPO LIVE project Phase II: “From desert farm to fork: Value chain development for innovative halophyte-based food products”

Problem Overview

Halophytes, or salt-loving plants, show promise for unconventional agriculture in marginal environments. They can be irrigated with saline water resources and grown on poor soils. They are fit for human and animal consumption and biofuel production. But they can also be used for phytoremediation and medicinal and industrial purposes. Belonging to the family of halophytes, Salicornia bigelovii is one such crop that can be used as food, feed and biofuel. One challenge that limits Salicornia cultivation is low or non-existent demand on the market. Another issue is lack of a value chain. To take Salicornia from the research station to the farm and thus scale up its production, it is important to create a value chain which includes different actors and allows for the production of fresh and processed Salicornia-based food products. To increase profitability of Salicornia cultivation, there is a need for a whole system to add more value to Salicornia-based food products in addition to practices that increase its yields. It is also necessary to raise consumer awareness about the health and other benefits of Salicornia-based food products to create demand and encourage growers and producers.

These measures would help to ensure the adoption of Salicornia by farmers, the production of Salicornia-based foods by the private sector and the consumption by the public.

Phase II of the EXPO LIVE project is a continuation of Phase I. Phase I focused on optimizing the pilot inland and coastal integrated agri-aquaculture farms which use saline water resources such as reject brine from desalination, aquaculture effluents and seawater to grow Salicornia and other halophytic vegetables in order to enhance food, nutrition and income security of rural communities that are struggling to produce in desert environments like the UAE.

Phase II focuses on the development of a value chain for Salicornia by creating innovative Salicornia-based food products. Salicornia and fish have been introduced on eight farms in the UAE using intermediate upscaling methodologies and the IAAS approach. ICBA is working with five organizations to implement the project. The Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority and the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development allocated investments for the farms to integrate the IAAS model. Max Planck Institute in Germany is tasked with the nutritional analyses of Salicornia plants from the farms to identify useful compounds. EAD is studying the environmental sustainability of utilizing reject brine from desalination for Salicornia production and monitoring the salt accumulation in the soil. Global Food Industries LLC. is taking fresh Salicornia produce (at a young vegetative stage) from the farms to develop Salicornia-based food products. The Salicornia-based food products will be marketed locally at the initial stage with a goal to go internationally later. ICBA seeks to create a halophyte-based industry in a desert environment by developing a portfolio of food products having Salicornia as one of the main ingredients. This model could be replicated in similar environments after customizing it to local climatic conditions and socioeconomic contexts.

Research Innovation Theme

Integrated Agri-Aquaculture Systems (IAAS)

The project contributes to the following SDGs: SDG 1: No Poverty; SDG 2: Zero Hunger, Targets 2.4 & 2.a; SDG 15: Life on Land, Targets 15.3 & 15.5; SDG 17: Partnerships for the goals, Target 17.9

Project SDGs
SDG 1: No poverty
SDG 2: Zero hunger
SDG 15: Life on land
SDG 17: Partnership for the goals
Expo 2020 Dubai’s Expo Live Innovation Impact Grant Program
المدة الزمنية
يوليو 2019 - ديسمبر 2021
Project Lead

Dr. Dionysia Angeliki Lyra, Halophyte Agronomist d.lyra@biosaline.org.ae


  1. Prof. Dr. Meis Moukayed, Clinical Scientist and Professor of Health and Life Sciences at the American University in Dubai
  2. Dr. Hayatullah Ahmadzai, Agricultural Economist
  3. Ms. Mai Shalaby, Curator of Emirates Soil Museum
  4. Mr. Showkat Nabi Rather, Journalism and Media Outreach Specialist
  5. Mr. Balagurusamy Santhanakrishnan, Agronomy Assistant
  6. Mr. Kaleem Ul Hassan Naeem, Laboratory Technician
  7. Mr. Efstathios Lampakis, Ichthyologist - Fish Consultant
  8. Mr. Bilal Saleh, Chef
  9. Mrs. Yasmine Haddad, Nutrition Consultant

Activities (titles and brief descriptions):

  1. Introduction of Salicornia and aquaculture on eight farms in the emirate of Abu Dhabi following the IAAS model;  
  2. Supervision and monitoring of the farms to ensure proper implementation of the modular farming approach and halophyte cultivation;
  3. Design and implementation of the training program for farmers in collaboration with the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development;
  4. Assessment of the social and environmental impact of the project at the farm level (e.g. reject brine use; salinity build-up in soil, consumer acceptance of halophytic products, etc.), conducted in collaboration with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi;
  5. Formulation of a marketing plan for Salicornia-based products in collaboration with Global Food Industries LLC.;
  6. Launch of the Halophytic Kitchen Lab Program which aims to raise awareness about the nutritional benefits of halophytic products produced in a desert environment and preparation of halophyte-based recipes. Read more about this program here.
Project Region
Near East and North Africa
Project Countries
United Arab Emirates
  • Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority (ADAFSA), UAE;
  • Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, UAE;
  • Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), UAE;
  • Global Food Industries LLC., UAE;