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Zayed International Foundation for Environment crowned the Urban Farming Champs title to the aircraft trainer, Captain Ahmed Al Ali
The Zayed International Foundation for the Environment crowned Captain Ahmed Al Ali, who is a B777 aircraft trainer in Emirates Airlines, as the champion of the first edition of the Urban Farming Champs contest, which launched last June to honour and encourage the best household agricultural experiences and raising awareness of the importance of the individual initiative to establish a food system that achieves food security, in preparation for the post-corona pandemic, Covid-19.
What is remarkable about Captain Ahmed Al Ali is his great passion for space, especially that he uses agricultural solutions used by NASA in its experiments for cultivation in space, which enabled him to develop his crops and improve production processes, relying on hydroponic technology to grow several varieties of vegetables, plants, flowers and herbs, to achieve self-sufficiency and food security for his family, friends and neighbors.
Ahmed Al Ali told that the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, may God bless him, set his example in ambition and interest in the environment and passion for aviation and space. Some were questioning my ability to enter the field of flying and success, with determination I fulfilled my dream and trained in Australia and joined Emirates Airlines in 2006, and about eight years ago, I decided to practice farming as a hobby and a family activity to achieve self-sufficiency and produce useful organic foods. He told me, do not tire yourself, the climate and soil in the Emirates do not help in agriculture, which made me more determined to develop my knowledge and experience in the agricultural field and to transfer the love of nature, environment and agriculture to my children.
Al Ali added, I was relying at my beginnings on traditional agriculture with soil and noticed an increase in my use of water, then I worked on developing my agricultural style and decided to take a new challenge, which is hydroponics, especially as it helps to save 80% of water compared to traditional agriculture and also managed to use the spaces horizontally. And after reading several books about this technique, I started making some practical attempts, but it was doomed to failure, but that did not prevent me from continuing and continuing the experiments because of my conviction that failure is a part of the success.
On this current agricultural system, Captain Al Ali drew attention to the fact that he is planted inside tubes dyed white to reflect the sun's rays, and these tubes connect to the main tank to pump water, then gravity returns water back to the tank after feeding the plants, and there is an air pump to pump the necessary oxygen to the roots Plants, and worked on developing it by adding aluminium sheets that reflect the sun's rays, preventing the leakage of water and the formation of algae that stick to the roots of plants usually and feed on their nutrients. Al Ali relies on another system, which is 'water culture', where the roots of plants are immersed in water all the time, and the light is provided artificially in the colours blue which is important for the afforestation stage, and red is necessary for the flowering stage.
Al Ali said, currently, I grow tomatoes of small sizes in a variety of colours; yellow, orange, red and black, tomatoes of large size in purple colour, in addition to okra in the colour red, lettuce, watercress, dill, chamomile, basil, thyme, sage, coriander, mint, cabbage, red and yellow sunflower, carrots, pepper, and other crops. The food that I grow at home is sufficient for my family's daily needs. We also distribute some of them to neighbours and friends, and we still have a surplus of them that we freeze or dry for future use.
On his impact on NASA's agricultural experiences in space, he said, plants in hydroponics need major elements present in solutions devoted to this agricultural pattern, among them nitrogen that gives the plant its green colour and works to strengthen it, and phosphorous are important for the flowering stage and increasing the number of fruits, and potassium helps the plant on photosynthesis and enhances his ability to absorb carbon dioxide and water, and there are other secondary elements such as calcium and magnesium. I have used many local solutions that have good results, but my love for experiment and discovery and my passion for space made me search more about the solutions that NASA uses to succeed in its agricultural experiments in its space laboratories with the aim of testing it on the ground and testing its effectiveness and among these solutions General Hydroponics which contributed to improving production processes.
And by asking about the impact of agricultural activity on his personality, he explained that his psychological benefits are endless, most notably helping to get rid of energy and negative thoughts, and he said, agriculture has made me more patient, optimistic. In every agricultural season, I learn something new and try various techniques and exchange experiences with new people to multiply my culture of ways to enhance plant comfort and care.
Dr. Meshgan Al-Awar, Secretary General of the Zayed International Foundation for the Environment, congratulated Captain Ahmed Al Ali on his victory in the first edition of the 'Urban Farming Champs' contest, explaining that his unique agricultural experience over eight years deserved support and visibility. Al-Awar confirmed that the first edition of the competition witnessed the competition of about 30 agricultural household experiments, all of which were subject to accurate evaluation criteria by the members of the Supreme Committee for the Zayed International Foundation for the Environment. Come to a conclusion, considering the pattern of natural agriculture, the extended use of organic fertilizers and recycled materials, in addition to efficient water usage and the quality and diversity of the crop in terms of the number of varieties, species and size of the crop.