With many blaming agriculture as a chief culprit in the nation's water shortages, Shukri's approach offers a ray of hope – and a rebuttal to those who say Jordan should stop exporting produce to preserve its limited resources.
Irrigated agriculture accounts for 64 percent of annual water use in Jordan. That's down from 75 percent in 1996. But farms produce only 3.1 percent of Jordan's gross domestic product and are responsible for only 2.7 percent of local employment.
Farmers dispute these government statistics, but even they admit farms waste water made cheap by government subsidies and illegally drilled wells. There's long been talk of raising water prices in line with the resource's actual value, but many farmers, already working on thin margins, have been resistant to the idea.
Some farmers grow thirsty crops such as bananas that sell for a pittance. Even staples, like tomatoes and cucumbers, often go to market at prices lower than the cost of the water it takes to grow them.
"We're planting so much ... the prices of that produce goes really, really low," explains Abdel Rahman Sultan of Friends of the Earth Middle East, an environmental advocacy group. Tomatoes sell for an average of 8.5 cents per pound, according to government figures.
By contrast, Shukri makes a healthy profit with the patented Coregeo Tenderstem broccoli that he grows and packages: Three kilograms (6.6 pounds) of broccoli takes only about a cubic meter of desalinated water – which costs between 30 and 60 cents – to produce. Shukri makes about $2.50 per pound selling the broccoli to British supermarkets.
But some question whether any farm exports are sustainable, given Jordan's shortage of water. "We just simply cannot accept [exporting produce] no matter how much you charge," says Mr. Sultan. "We're in the middle of the desert! We're at the center of climate change. We cannot afford to lose our water just for the sake of making a few people richer."