Abu Dhabi – MENA Herald: The UAE Ministry of Environment and Water and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, an independent, research-driven graduate-level university focused on advanced energy and sustainable technologies, today announced that they have signed an agreement to collaborate on conserving marine ecosystems and developing a healthy aquaculture industry in the UAE.

The research collaboration agreement will also cover developing UAE nationals in the use of modern technology for the Seawater Energy and Agriculture System’s (SEAS) pilot project established as part of the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC), a partnership of energy and technology leaders founded by Masdar Institute.

The agreement was signed by Dr Behjat Al Yousuf, Interim Provost, Masdar Institute and H.E. Eng. Mariam Mohammed Saeed Hareb, Assistant Undersecretary of Water Resources and Nature Conservation Affairs, Ministry of Environment and Water.

The SEAS project uses desert land – irrigated by seawater – to produce both food and bioenergy. The project as a whole provides seafood, biomass for energy and enrich mangrove forests, without negatively impacting freshwater supplies or crossing over into existing farmland.

According to the agreement, the ministry will provide fish fingerlings and mangrove seedlings in addition to technical expertise. The ministry has also expressed its willingness to become a member of the SBRC, whose current partners are Etihad Airways, The Boeing Company,, Takreer, GE and Safran.

H.E. Eng. Mariam Mohammed Saeed Hareb said that the Ministry of Environment and Water is keen to develop sustainable projects that promote environmental sustainability and conserve natural resources, which contributes in the development of various environmental sectors to achieve the objectives of the UAE Vision 2021.

H.E. Hareb added that the importance of cooperation with pioneer research institutes such as Masdar in various environmental fields will expedite learning processes about best practices and adoption of policies that will enhance environmental sustainability.  She also pointed out that the “Seawater Energy and Agriculture System” will generate useful products in a sustainable manner that is suitable for the UAE’s unique environment, which falls in line with the Ministry’s strategy to find alternatives and innovative solutions for sustainable development in all environmental sectors.

Dr. Behjat Al Yousuf said, “The UAE Ministry of Environment and Water’s commitment to the SBRC’s pilot farm project reflects their endorsement of this major initiative. With global leaders in energy and technology as its partners, the SBRC stands as a major testimony to Masdar Institute’s role in seeking sustainable solutions to global challenges. The project will provide seafood, biomass for energy, and enrich mangrove forests, without negatively impacting freshwater supplies. We believe the agreement with the ministry will ensure the protection of the UAE’s marine ecosystems in balance with the development of its aquaculture industry.”

James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ President and Chief Executive Officer, said “We welcome the support of the Ministry of Environment and Water with the SEAS project.

“This is an important initiative for the airline’ which we hope will advance the development of sustainable alternative aviation fuel in Abu Dhabi.”

Jasem Ali Al Sayegh, TAKREER CEO said: “The Ministry of Environment and Water will definitely boost SBRC’s integrated seawater bioenergy pilot project. We welcome the Ministry on board and hope that together we will help the aviation industry in the UAE to meet the growing demand for jet fuel in an innovative and sustainable manner”.

Construction work began on the SEAS pilot facility earlier in June this year. The project is intended to run for three to five years, allowing researchers to learn more about the optimal operations and conditions to support the scalable production of bioenergy.

Headed by Dr. Alejandro Rios, Professor of Practice, Engineering Systems and Management, the SBRC is focused on the joint research and advancement of sustainable aviation biofuels. Its research areas covers the development and commercialization of sustainable biofuels and biomaterial derived from the conversion of plant oils and biomass. The technology uses coastal seawater to raise fish and shrimp for food, whose nutrient-rich wastewater then fertilizes plants rich in oils that can be harvested for aviation biofuel production.