UAE’s Zayed Agricultural Center Uses Aquaponics and Farming to Help Individuals with Special Needs
The Zayed Agricultural Center for Development and Rehabilitation was founded in 1994 by the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. “The foundation of the center aims to the inclusion of enrolled students with special needs into the productive and social life by rehabilitating them and exploiting their potentials and capacities in order to create job opportunities for people with special needs in regard to the intellectual development as well as to teach the enrolled students agricultural production skills, beekeeping and honey production in addition to the fish, animal and poultry breeding and producing.”
The Zayed Agricultural Center, located in the UAE, houses one of the largest aquaponics systems on the planet and was the largest at the time it was built. This project aims to train participants in the practice of using aquaponics to produce vegetables and breed fish in a recirculating aquaponics system. The center uses aquaponics, and farming in general for the therapeutic value it brings as well as a tool to train their participants for job and personal skill development.
Set up with a grant from the Khalifa Fund, the Dh4 million project has two greenhouses, each 2,400 square meters. One houses their fish and one houses their vegetables. The system can produce up to 40 tonnes of produce depending on variety and 12 tonnes of fish each year. The project employs about 40 students with special needs. The system was designed and maintained by JBA Agritech who also hired Dr. Charlie Shultz famous for designing the longest running commercial aquaponics system at the University of the Virgin Islands.
In addition to the aquaponics project, the Zayed Agricultural Center also uses traditional agriculture, mechanic and maintenance workshops, landscaping, animal productions, as well as food packing and canning to enhance their job and skill development programming.