As the curtain came down on the Expo 2020 Dubai, a World Expo hosted by Dubai, the UAE, from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022, The Desert Farm in the Expo 2020 Dubai’s Sustainability District had recorded 226,379 visits.
The International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) contributed to the design, installation, and operation of The Desert Farm as part of collaboration with the Expo 2020 Dubai.
Over the past six months, ICBA hosted a wide range of visitors at the installation from different countries. They included ministers, ambassadors, representatives of various international organizations, families and students from universities, colleges, and schools.
Managed by a team of scientists and specialists from ICBA, the installation was a proof-of-concept circular agriculture model that showcased innovations for food, feed, energy, and water security in desert environments.
It served as a one-of-its-kind platform to demonstrate ICBA’s research and development work over the past two decades and its efforts to develop and introduce resource-efficient crops and technologies suited for the world’s marginal environments, the areas of the world that face the problems of water scarcity, salinity, heat and drought, among others.
In particular, the installation showed how to make better use of the resources available in deserts – the sun, the sand, and the sea (saline water and reject brine) - to grow fish and highly resilient crops for food and feed such as quinoa, Salicornia, and blue panicum.
Overall, the purpose was to promote use of alternative sources of water like reject brine from desalination in agriculture and highlight the importance of diversifying agri-food systems and diets by growing nutritious food crops that are better suited to local conditions.
The Desert Farm is a result of many years of research and development work under the program on integrated agri-aquaculture systems and incorporates a number of tailor-made solutions for desert environments.
Since 1999, ICBA has carried out research-for-development activities and programs in around 40 countries in Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, the South Caucasus, and sub-Saharan Africa.
Over the years, the center has developed and introduced 24 technologies and crops in around 30 countries. They range from improved genotypes of quinoa and Salicornia to drought monitoring solutions to integrated agri-aquaculture systems.