Abu Dhabi-partnered Parabel has successfully completed the first phase of a seven million dollar, high tech agro-investment to produce human food and animal feed in Entebbe, Uganda.

The company’s project employs novel technology to grow, harvest and process lemna, an indigenous aquatic plant related to duckweed that has been used for centuries as fodder, but not developed commercially to realise the efficiencies anticipated with Parabel’s system.

The first phase involved a demonstration of the large-scale growth and harvesting of the micro-crop in a facility running alongside the runways at Entebbe International Airport.

The project has drawn strong governmental support, and has seen pledges from both Gabriel Ajedra, state minister for investments, and Bright Rwamirama, state minister for agriculture, animal industry and fisheries.

Anthony Tiarks, Parabel CEO, said: “In this first phase, we confirmed that the micro-crops grow very quickly and that there is tremendous potential for production in Uganda. Starting with two tonnes, in seven days we will have 10 tonnes, harvesting one tonne each day.”

Tom Buringuriza, Parabel VP for Africa, added: “Uganda is the first African state with a fully operating demonstration and research site and it will lead to a fully commercial site that will be replicated in other states with similar weather conditions.”

In its next phase the project will move to a 50-hectare space to grow the crop and produce end products on a commercial basis, in a move that the company is touting will develop Uganda into the green protein food and animal feed base for Africa.

According to Paul Skillicorn, CEO of Biotechnology Research and Development, duckweed, and by extention lemna, can produce superior protein up to 50 times faster than soybeans.

The sustainably grown micro-crop avoids using expensive farmland, minimises the use of local water sources, and can be harvested all year around by local workforces.

Ultimately Parabel’s technology offers part of a solution to the global food security crisis, which will likely see a 30% rise in the world’s food requirements over the next 40 years.

Local partnered in Abu Dhabi, Parabel is headquartered in Melbourne, Florida.