Shropshire Star

Crops grown on urban buildings in Jordan via project backed by Harper Adams expertise

Crops have been grown on buildings in towns and cities in Jordan thanks to an innovative research project backed by Shropshire's agricultural university's expertise.

Crops growing in Jordan

The scheme, which aims to boost food security in the Middle East by helping to grow crops in urban areas, was led by Harper Adams University lecturer Jonathan Cooper in collaboration with partners at Jordan's Royal Scientific Society (RSS).

Its aim was to help implement systems in Jordanian communities which enabled crops to be grown in new places – boosting resilience and food security for those involved. It saw the rooftops of a family home and a community centre in two localities in Jordan – at Assalt and Al-Ashrafeyya – transformed into sites for crops as part of a three-part urban farming initiative.

Initially seeded by funding from the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Frontiers of Engineering for Development initiative, the programme helped provide the communities it served with a series of key crops.

Crops growing in Jordan

At the community organisation, a soilless agriculture system on the roof helped grow quantities of tomatoes – a staple used in many Jordanian dishes which could then be cooked in the centre’s on-site kitchen.

At the family home, a hydroponic vertical farming system was used to grow celery and onions – and at both sites, as word spread in the local community, interested neighbours began to visit to find out more, spread the word about the projects – and buy produce.

A further innovative ‘green wall’ was also developed at RSS headquarters in Jordan’s capital, Amman.

Dr Cooper from Harper Adams University, in Edgmond, near Newport, said: “Most people in these communities had never seen anything like these projects before – but they could see for themselves the benefits for the people involved.

“Much of the technology involved is not particularly difficult to use or expensive – the innovations in this project were where and how it was used.”

Crops growing in Jordan

Initial plans for the project – where both sets of experts would have met at the sites in Jordan to implement the proposals – had to be redesigned in 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to most international travel.

However, despite this setback – and even following a rare blizzard in February 2021– the project has proved a success. It is now one which Dr Cooper hopes can be used as a model both for further projects of its kind, and for further projects linking Harper Adams with international partners.

Dr Almoayied Assayed, Director of the Water and Environment Centre at RSS, said: “The food security of poor urban people is sensitive to changes in market prices and incomes. For the long-term potential impacts, this project will promote urban farming systems in poor areas in Jordan - thus enhancing food availability and creating more jobs for local community members.”

“Some 40 days after planting on the rooftop, the family household was able to harvest more than 25 kg of celery and onions; they consumed some and sold the rest.”

Dr Cooper added: “Working on this project – despite the unexpected challenges the past year presented – has led to direct improvements for two Jordanian communities, and has also helped to build links between institutions in the Middle East and here in the UK."