Gulf of Aqaba- Agriculture
 Chapter 2 Gulf of Aqaba
7. Agriculture
 Gulf of Aqaba- Agriculture

Lack of water, arid climate and harsh soil conditions make the region problematic in terms of agricultural output. The extensive desert and the economic obstacles to developing adequate water resources require the employment of special technologies and the channeling of production efforts into special crops and products. The abundance of sea and brackish waters creates considerable potential for marine agriculture and other aquacultural projects. As a junction between four Middle East nations, the Gulf of Aqaba is an appropriate location for initiating agricultural cooperation, particularly with regard to the distribution and marketing of agricultural products.

7.1. Joint Israeli-Jordanian Cooperation in Mariculture Research

The potential economic impact of mariculture development on the economy in the Wadi Araba/Arava could be considerable. If mariculture is developed to meet 25% of current fish imports, it is estimated that the required investment would come to $240 million and added value of would be approximately $100 million annually. Added value would increase even more if downstream processing activities are introduced.

The objective of project is to establish a pilot plant to determined the technical and commercial viability of developing inland mariculture in the Wadi Araba/Arava with sea water from the Gulf of Aqaba. It is included in the JRV Master Plan. The pilot project will be based on the Integrated Pond System (IPS) developed by the National Center for Mariculture in Eilat to raise fish, clams and algae. The unit will be capable of producing 50 tonnes of fish, 20 tonnes of shellfish and 15 tonnes of algae over a 14 month period. The project will be located at existing facilities of the National Center for Mariculture in Eilat, which is situated a few hundred meters from the border with Jordan on the shore of the Gulf of Aqaba.

Specific project goals include:

  • proving the technical viability of developing intensive integrated fish, shellfish and seaweed farming in the Wadi Araba/Arava;
  • establishing the economic viability of the Integrated Pond System based on sea water from the Gulf of Aqaba;
  • constructing demonstration facilities for hands-on training for scientists and technicians;
  • reducing the cost of seaweed production;
  • conserving heat in the recirculation system of the fish ponds;
  • degrading the organic load in sediments of the clam pond.

The pilot project will require 1 hectare of land and would represent a commercial fish farm with a yield of 2-4 times (100-200 tonnes of marine fish annually) of that of the demonstration installation. Duration of the pilot project is 3 years. After this time, it is assumed that operations will be self-supporting. The IPS system employs environmentally-friendly technology. The nutrient load is progressively utilized and most water within the system is recycled. Effluent is of similar quality to that of the intake.

Required facilities include:

  • intensive fish ponds: two sets of three ponds with a capacity of 250m3 and one set of three 100m3.
  • sedimentation/ clam ponds: earthen ponds lined with PVC. These will be seeded with locally produced clam spat at densities of 1000 and 2000 individuals/m2 . Total pond area will be 2,100m3.
  • macro-algae ponds for culturing seaweed: several agitation techniques will be used and mechanized harvesting devices installed. Total pond area will be 2,100m3.
  • drum filters: 1000m3/hr capacity to remove organic load from discharged water.
  • aerobic and anaerobic biofilters : 1000m3/hr capacity to eliminate ammonia and load resulting from natural protein breakdown in fish and clams.
  • miscellaneous equipment: oxygen supply; feeding and harvesting machinery; pumps, blowers and water treatment devices; and control and measuring equipment.

Estimated infrastructure costs are summarized in the table below:

Summary of Capital Costs for Joint Jordanian-Israeli Mariculture Project (in thousand US dollars)


Estimated Cost

Intensive fish ponds


Clam/sedimentation ponds


Macroalgae ponds


Filters, pumps, measuring equipment


Infrastructure & sea water supply


Experimental small scale set up




Source: Based on data from Harza, Jordan Rift Valley Integrated Development Study, 1997

The estimated Net Present Value at a 10% cost of capital is $1.9 million and the Internal Rate of Return comes to 31.2%. Total operating costs for the three year period are estimated at $2.9 million.