The exponential increase of the world population through time is heaping more pressure on the agricultural sector to produce food amounts enough to feed the world. There is a significant need for better water management and irrigation practices to increase agricultural production using the same amount of water, and even less. On the other hand, land resources are of equal importance and their use in a sustainable manner is a key factor moving forward.

 

How can the agribusiness sector contribute towards a sustainable future? More importantly, what kind of steps is Debbane Saikali Group taking in the right direction?

 

ACHIEVEMENTS

Hydroponics is defined as not using soil as substrate for crop production (FAO, 2020). The major advantage with such a system is the absence of weeds and other soil- borne pests, no toxic pesticide residues, better use of water, better control over nutrients and oxygen, and increased crop quality and yields.

 

Exotica

Exotica has been using the hydroponics system in its nurseries since 1998. Back then, Exotica engineers learned the advanced technologies of the new growing systems in Europe, imported them to Lebanon, and through continuous support from European experts till this day, they have been successful in maintaining and optimizing these systems.

 

Roses are grown in perlite, which allows growers to plant double the roses per square meter, providing a better economic return. Irrigation and fertilizers are supplied through automated systems, and water demand is determined through soil sensors in the growing media. This automated fertigation process, along with the controlled environment of the greenhouse, enables the growers to produce high quality roses that are uniform across the greenhouse.

 

Debbane Freres

Other than ornamentals, Debbane Freres has adopted hydroponics in the agricultural industry since the early 2000’s. Our trial station in Aadloun encompasses 12,000 square meters of hydroponically grown tomatoes, cucumbers and eggplants. The greenhouses have a controlled environment with respect to temperature, humidity, and irrigation. The main advantages of this system include, but are not limited to the following:

 

Another advanced form of hydroponics, the Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), has been adopted in the

Bouar trial station where we are growing lettuce. Similarly, advantages of NFT include, but are not limited to the following

Bouar station also hosts strawberries planted hydroponically in Rockwool, another inert mineral substrate. Achieving high yields and high quality fruits.

 

Other than hydroponics, Debbane is adopting new planting and cultivation methods in the grapes sector. With the idea originating from Italy, vineyards are grown under plastic film covers, in an effort to protect the vines during critical periods of adverse weather conditions, mainly hail storms, spring frost and hot wind storms in summer. Furthermore, the plastic film cover provides a better microclimate for the vineyard, allowing harvest time to be achieved earlier for early varieties, and later for late varieties.  In order for this cultivation method to be fully effective, Debbane secured the exclusivity of the best protected grape varieties from California to fit every segment of the market. We can now produce grapes from early June till end December.

 

Debbane Freres has already adopted the new vineyard structure in Bekaa, North, and most recently in the South of Lebanon where a 15 hectares vineyard has been installed at Wazzani. The project at Wazzani is finalized, with all the structures installed and covered, and all the grapes planted. Production is expected to start in 2021.

 

CHALLENGES

The idea of hydroponics has surely disrupted the traditional ornamental and agricultural markets, being able to provide higher quality produce, with greater amounts, at faster rates and most importantly while using less land and resources. So, why hasn’t Debbane been able to properly commercialize it on the national and regional scale?

Financing

Hydroponics projects have a significantly higher initial investment due to the multi-span structure, climate control, automated irrigation system, cost of substrate that needs to be changed yearly and others. Many farmers/investors refrain from venturing into an investment of such magnitude, especially that the Lebanese produce markets’ prices are continuously fluctuating. Moreover, the government does not subsidize such sustainable solutions to help and encourage the Lebanese farmer to invest.

The same applies for the grape’s projects, whereby the initial cost of investment is almost 5 times more than that of a traditional vineyard. With the current financial crisis and the uncertainty of the Lebanese economy going forward, the likelihood of selling such projects continues to be limited.

Mentality and Support

Like any innovation, the main challenge is the mentality of the target customer, which in our case is the farmer; very tough. Without solid facts and studies proving the efficiency and feasibility of our projects, it is very hard to market and sell projects.

 On the other hand, we have not been successful enough on our demonstration sites to present clear-cut data, proving that Hydroponically grown vegetables and strawberries yield consistently a better and more abundant crop than soil-planted ones. More focus and intensified work will be provided from our side, as we believe this is certainly going to be a technique to spread in the near future. We also need to build and train the teams who will be in charge of supporting the customers who will follow these techniques.

Steps moving forward

In order to tackle these challenges, we are taking several steps moving forward. Firstly, through trials, we are optimizing our structures in an effort to lower cost per square meter, therefore lowering the amount of initial investment required. Secondly, we are forming a committee that will be dedicated to sharing ideas and expertise in the aforementioned innovative solutions, which also serves the purpose of lowering and optimizing the operational expenses of these projects. Finally, we continue to expose ourselves to innovations and developments through seminars, fairs and exhibitions, whereby we can learn from outside knowledge, adapt what we learned to our resources and capabilities, and provide the market with tailor made solutions.

Through innovation and technologies, Debbane continues to strive in the face of the agricultural challenges in the region, while aiming to optimize land and water use and provide farmers with holistic agricultural solutions towards a sustainable future.

Share post
Other news & articles

02

Nov

2021

Ammiq Open day

Ammiq Open day is an opportunity to meet our customers and display the main vegetable seeds varieties from our multinational suppliers. The open day was held on August 17th, and despite the fuel shortage and the transportation challenges, 60 people including key farmers, exporters, Engineers, attended it. Throughout the event, the visitors participated in the evaluation process (by filling evaluation sheets) under the supervision of our PM, TCEs and Technical engineers in order to share info, highlight on our commercial varieties and select new promising varieties. It was an opportunity to get the feedback of the visitors on the presented varieties. In total, ten varieties have been selected showing good performance and fitting the local and export market. The selected varieties will be elaborated next year by setting a Demo Trial plan to move forward in the coming years to the pre-commercial/Commercial stage; in other hand the positive feedback our commercial varieties will be reflected on the market share in the framework of win-win situation between our company and the customers. The event was overall a success.

02

Nov

2021

Sugar Cane Cultivation

Sugar Cane Cultivation: A Successful Experiment in El Oued Sugar cane cultivation has produced convincing results over the past season across El Oued province, specifically in the region of Ourmas and Guemar. It was introduced by Egypt (Upper Egypt) and Saudi Arabia (Jeddah), two regions that share similar climatic conditions (heat and humidity), and was initially adopted as a windbreak to fight against sand encroachment. This experiment is in line with the State's agricultural forward-looking strategy, diverted towards the development of certain crops in the south region of the country, including sugar cane and soybeans. Sugar Cane Cultivation Introduction of sugar cane cultivation would undoubtedly be one of the finest achievements in the agricultural sector in Algeria, a major sugar consumer and importer. The stems of this giant, sugar-filled grass were first sown in the commune of Ourmas by Ibrahim Hazigue who is an experimental farmer. Up until this day, this precious plant is yet to be developed. Its stems are used as windbreaks and food for livestock. About five years ago, the first stems brought back from Egypt were sown in the land of Oued Souf. At first, the purpose was only to test the adaptation of grass to the soil and climate of the region, yet the results were found to be very encouraging. Sun, water and necessary heat to produce the stalks from which sugar is extracted are all available resources in this region. Cultivation of this perennial, which grows rapidly and does not need to be replanted every year, is simple and does not require much water (can be irrigated once a week). It also does not require too much monitoring and pesticides. It is important to set out a well-studied strategy aimed at the optimization of this newly introduced crop, by implementing orientation, popularization and technical support mechanisms, in order to achieve self-sufficiency in food production, as well as food security.

02

Nov

2021

KLASMANN-DEILMANN & DEBBANE for agriculture

"KLASMANN-DEILMANN & DEBBANE for agriculture Algeria” In collaboration with the Klasmann-Deilmann teams, a digital meeting was held on June 29, 2021 animated jointly, with the presence of all the operational team of DEAL. The event was an opportunity for everyone to refresh the general knowledge on the KD solutions that DEAL commercializes on the Algerian market, but also to update the different arguments that position these products at the forefront of a market more and more competitive but in constant evolution (+18% over the last 3 years). The participation of everyone has allowed to discuss the prospects of evolution of this category in the different regions of Algeria through a better awareness of the market needs by our partner suppliers KD.

02

Nov

2021

Lecture on the Optimization of Modern Technologies

Lecture on the Optimization of Modern Technologies in Wheat Production Chains and their Impact on Production and Productivity On July 1, 2021, Debbane for Modern Agriculture Ltd organized a lecture and panel discussion at the invitation of Arab Agricultural Engineers Union under the title of “Optimization of Modern Technologies in Wheat Production Chains and their Impact on Production and Productivity”. A number of Arab organizations, regional figures, as well as ACSAD organization attended the panel discussion that was aired from the Iraqi Agricultural Engineers Association. Workshop on Water Harvesting and Irrigation Scheduling On August 16, 2021, the Department of Field Crops at the College of Agriculture, University of Baghdad organized a workshop on water harvesting and irrigation scheduling sponsored by Debbane for Modern Agriculture Ltd that is represented by the Director of Technical Development Dr. Hussein Mohamed Abbas. A number of teachers, students, and experts attended the lecture that addressed the use of irrigation scheduling to calculate the water needs of field crops via Free Conference Call program. Developmental Lecture on Vegetable Crops and Modern Technologies in the Use of Pesticides and Fertilizers On August 28, 2021, Debbane for Modern Agriculture Ltd organized a developmental lecture on vegetable crops and modern technologies in the use of pesticides and fertilizers. A number of vegetable farmers, including the company’s agents, attended the event that took place in Salah al-Din Governorate, Tikrit. Director of Technical Development Dr. Hussein Mohamed Abbas delivered the lecture, along with the Director of the Central Region Mr. Nawfal Talal, the Technical Engineer Mohamed Jassem, and the Sales Engineer in the region Mr .Amir Safian. Field Observation and Joint Workshop between Debbane for Modern Agriculture Ltd and Plant Protection Department at the University of Baghdad within a Summer Training Program to Agriculture Students On September 5, 2021, Debbane for Modern Agriculture Ltd organized a field observation and a joint workshop with the Plant Protection Department at the University of Baghdad. The observation is part of a summer training program addressed to students of the College of Agriculture in Baghdad, which a number of students and teachers attended. Director of Technical Development Dr. Hussein Abbass welcomed the attendees and delivered a lecture on pesticides, how they work, and their safe use. Mr. Ziad Nohman provided a summary about on-farm experiments of seeds and yellow corn at the station, whereas Eng. Ali Mohamed, Head of Baghdad station, took the attendees on a field tour too. Developmental Lecture on Vegetable Crops and Modern Technologies in the Use of Pesticides and Fertilizers of Debbane for Modern Agriculture Ltd On September 12, 2021, Debbane for Modern Agriculture Ltd organized a developmental lecture on vegetable crops and modern technologies in the use of pesticides and fertilizers of the company in Diyala Governorate. A number of vegetables farmers, including the company’s agents, attended the lecture. Director of Technical Development Dr. Hussein Mohamed Abbass delivered the lecture, along with the Director of the Seeds Development Department Eng. Ziad Nohman, Director of the Central Region Mr. Nawfal Talal, and Technical Engineer Mustafa Najem. Re-forming the Iraqi National Committee for Standardization and Quality Control The Iraqi National Committee for Standardization and Quality Control was re-formed as Dr. Hussein Mohamed Abbas was selected as part of the National Committee to represent the private sector. Dr. Mohammed has also represented by the Debbane for Modern Agriculture Ltd, pursuant to the administrative order issued by the National Committee for Standardization and Quality Control. National Committee Visit to the Site of Experiments for Registering Watermelon Sasha Varieties in Iraq The National Committee for Varieties Registration visited the site of the experiments for the watermelon variety from Apollo Company, where Eng. Ziad Nohman explained the experiment, its design and the history of cultivation. National Committee Visit to the Site of Experiments for the RegisteringTomato SV8320T Varieties from Monsanto The National Committee for Varieties Registration visited the site of the experiments of Tomato SV8320T from Monsanto Company, where phenotypic and product specifications where noted. The experiment designed was also explained by Eng. Ziad Nohman, Eng. Amjad, and Eng. […] Open Field Observation in Khan Bani Saad on the Cucumber Crop On September 3, 2021, Debbane for Modern Agriculture Ltd organized an open field observation in Khan Bani Saad on the cucumber crop, in the presence of a number of farmers and traders from the region. Both engineers Mr. Ziad Nohman and Mr. Nawfal provided a detailed explanation about the varieties and fertilization programs.

Join our newsletter

to stay up to date with our latest projects