The International Center of Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) is transplanting and growing superfoods in the Dubai desert to boost food diversity. The ICBA, a non-profit organization founded in 1999 in the United Arab Emirates, boasts a unique selection of 13,000 seeds and has introduced non-traditional crops to the desert, such as quinoa from South America’s Andes. Five of the 1,200 types of quinoa discovered by scientists can grow in harsh climates. Salicornia, a plant native to the southern United States that survives in saline water, was also used to make food and biofuel. “Freshwater is becoming more and more scarce,” says Dionysia Angeliki Lyra, an agronomist at the ICBA. “We have to focus on how we can utilize low-quality, saline water resources for food production.”

With food consumption expected to rise by 59 to 98 percent by 2050, the ICBA’s research is part of a global effort to find alternative ways to produce food. However, increasing temperatures and extreme weather conditions may require more than one food production system to ensure food security, according to Joshua Katz, a partner at the consulting firm McKinsey & Company. The ICBA currently produces about 200 kilograms of quinoa and 500 kilograms of salicornia for research and seeding. Furthermore, it has been cooperating with a food company in Dubai to develop salicornia-based food products to increase consumer adoption.