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Circular fields of crops in the desert of Arizona just outside of Phoenix as shot from an altitude of about 1000 feet from a helicopter.
Podcast / Food Futures
Podcast / Food Futures

Transforming the desert into fertile land

What do you do about food security if your country is mostly surrounded by desert?

It’s a growing problem, particularly for the United Arab Emirates.

It’s estimated that around 120,000 square kilometres of land is lost to the desert each year.

Countries like the UAE rely heavily on imported food, but efforts are being made to turn desert land, into fertile land.

In fact, it’s already happening – there are melons being grown in the desert around Dubai right now.

But the challenge is to increase the diversity of crops being grown, as well as the size of the crops themselves.

Two companies, recognised as one of the food related Expo Live global innovators at Expo 2020 hosted in Dubai, are working on some solutions.

In this episode of the Table Talk podcast we find out how they are going about making the desert fertile and the cost of failing to act.

Dr Dionysia Angeliki Lyra, Halophyte Agronomist, International Center for Biosaline Agriculture

Dr Dionysia Angeliki Lyra has been working as a Halophyte Agronomist at the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) in Dubai United Arab Emirates since 2013.

She has been evaluating halophytic germplasm like Salicornia in inland and coastal desert areas exploring multiple uses (food, feed, biofuel production, etc.).

After running a successful project funded by USAID in 2016, Dr. Lyra was announced as one of the 29 global innovators for EXPO2020 of the 1st phase of the EXPO Live program in 2017 and received a grant for the project “Inland and coastal modular farms for climate change adaptation in desert environments”.

The successful implementation of the project led to a 2nd granting phase from EXPO LIVE program focusing on the value chain development for innovative halophyte-based food products in collaboration with UAE and international partners.  

Atle Idland, Co-founder, GM and Managing Director, Desert Control

Atle is the Co-founder, GM and Managing Director at Desert Control ME LLC, co-leading the company’s Climate Smart Agri-technology – first of its kind – Liquid Natural Clay (LNC) growth and advancement here in UAE and MENA region.

Desert Control‘s Liquid Natural Clay (LNC) restores and protects soil, reducing water usage for agriculture, forests, and green landscapes. LNC enables sand and degraded soil to keep water and nutrients.

Atle has in the past, been part of the Oil & Offshore Industry in Norway, where he was pivotal in leading and driving accelerated business growth internationally and globally in ABB Oil & Gas and was awarded Innovator of “Joint Value Creation “business tactic instrument for his partner collaboration and motivation.

Atle is also a Blue Ocean Strategy practitioner. 

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