Improving Food Security

Exploring the power of local halophytes in food production

One of the goals of the project is to advance innovation and sustainability of local food production. Together with ICBA, the project is testing the feasibility of Salicornia and Arthocaulon – halophytes that are present along the UAE coastline which act as strong carbon sinks – and can be harvested as a new food and feed commodity and sold in the market.

These have the potential to be used in food production as super foods, green salt, fodder and other by-products which can be produced by local farming communities, opening the door for new sources of income, economic diversification, small-scale business growth and local entrepreneurship, while benefiting nature and biodiversity.

The cultivation of Salicornia sinus-persica and Arthocaulon macrostachyum is currently being piloted in the Umm Al Quwain coastal lagoon, and a proof of concept is under development, with nutritional and market feasibility studies planned this year.


A halophyte is a plant that has adapted to thrive in environments with high concentrations of salt. These plants have specialized mechanisms to tolerate or even utilize salt in their growth and metabolism. This is one of the reasons harvesting halophytes has shown great potential for unconventional agriculture in the desert and harsh environments.

Halophytes show enormous potential as a crop that can be used as an ingredient for gourmet cuisine, superfoods, green salt and fodder for animals. Beyond commercial opportunities in food, halophytes provide several other benefits and are considered a key Nature-based Solution.

The infusion of halophytes in gastronomy could unlock unique possibilities, advancing the UAE’s culinary culture, while also making a positive impact for climate and nature.
Developing a Proof of Concept

The goal in 2024 is to present a concept to B2B/private sector audiences – including local entrepreneurs and businesses – who can take this halophytes-centred model further.

How? To build awareness around locally harvested halophytes and encourage their uptake in the UAE, renowned restaurateurs and chefs are being engaged as advocacy spokespersons. These critical stakeholders represent the key chain element to assess both the market (customers) and the suppliers (farmers & investors).

The Halophytes Advocacy Team

Omar Shihab

The NbS project has teamed up with Omar Shihab, hospitality industry professional, sustainability champion, and founder of MICHELIN Green Star restaurant BOCA. Omar is advocating the use of halophytes in the culinary and gastronomy world, and leading the industry in exploring their potential as an exciting new local and endemic ingredient.

Chef Luca Cobre

Chef Luca Cobre advocates for simplicity and authenticity, believing in the essence of land-to-table cooking and prioritizing premium, organic, and eco-friendly ingredients, rooted in family tradition. As Executive Chef of Healthy Farm Eatery, endorsed by the Royal Family of Sharjah Al Qassimi, Chef Luca pioneers healthy dining in Dubai and Sharjah. He explores global farms, fostering partnerships with small-scale producers for quality ingredients. Innovating beyond menus, Luca introduces plant-based vegan products and DUNE Camel Cheese, celebrated by all. His collaborations with governmental entities underscore his commitment to local agricultural development, promoting healthy lifestyles through tailored meal plans and community engagement.

Chef Kelvin Cheung

Chef Kelvin Cheung, a Chinese Canadian raised in Chicago and based in Dubai, is a multi-award-winning chef renowned for his Third Culture Food. He leads Jun’s and Little Jun’s, combining his Chinese heritage, North American upbringing, and French training with local ingredients. Kelvin's inventive cuisine has earned Jun’s accolades, including spots in Dubai’s Michelin Guide and MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants. Known for his dynamic personality, he advocates for wellness, diversity, and sustainability in the culinary industry. Recently, he cooked for NBA stars and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, and was named What’sOn Dubai’s 2024 Chef of the Year.

News and Updates

28 MAY

More than 20 leading culinary minds from across the UAE come together to experience locally cultivated halophytes – a nutritious, salt-tolerant, and climate-resilient culinary ingredient.

Emirates Nature-WWF, ICBA and Sustainability Champion Omar Shihab convene UAE’s Finest Chefs in Umm Al Quwain to Promote Super Ingredient for the UAE: Halophytes
09 DEC

The Government of Umm Al Quwain (UAQ), in close partnership with the UAE Ministry of Economy and Emirates Nature-WWF, has announced the launch of an initiative to develop a set of robust Sustainable Blue Economy (SBE) guidelines at COP28.

New initiative to spur Sustainable Blue Economy in Umm Al Quwain
27 SEP

By Sheikh Majid Bin Saoud Bin Rashid Al Mualla, The UAE pays great attention to ecotourism as it is one of the types of sustainable tourism that contributes to the preservation of natural and cultural heritage.

The promise of nature-positive tourism in Umm Al Quwain