Dubai turns to vertical farming, the new food waste frontier

  • August 29, 2018

Dubai turns to vertical farming, the new food waste frontier

Described as the new frontier for sustainable agriculture, vertical farming is sweeping Dubai as new farms ‘crop’ up everywhere in the UAE.

The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MoCCAE) just agreed in July to establish 12 vertical farms in Dubai.

As 7,600 square metres of land in the city is to be allocated to encourage the growth of the thriving industry. Shalimar Biotech Industries will develop infrastructure facilities, such as a water desalination plant, climate-control air conditioning, LED lighting, and automatic irrigation systems for the dozen farms.

While vertical farming is seen as an environmentally friendly, efficient, and sustainable solution to the UAE’s future food supply, more companies jump in the opportunity to provide advanced technology for the greater good.

Airline giant, Emirates Airlines, is set to build the world’s largest vertical farm in Dubai. In partnership with the California-based firm, Crop One, the $40 million project will grow fresh produce at a minimum cost.

Situated at a 130,000 sq. ft. facility near Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central, the project is set to produce 2,700kg of herbicide-free and pesticide-free leafy greens every day.

But what is vertical farming exactly?

Vertical farming is a technique with a significantly smaller carbon footprint than traditional farming, where 99% less water than outdoor farming is used. The vertical farm will cover 130,000 sq. ft. and will produce the equivalent of ‘astonishing’ 900 acres of farmland.

The sustainable project aims to achieve greater “self-sufficiency” for the emirate and reduce the carbon footprint from transporting imports. Since fresh vegetables will not need to be imported from abroad, the food supply in Dubai will increase in quality and capacity.

Dubai has always been eyeing the introduction of ground-breaking technologies that will enhance its position as a global innovation hub but more importantly, they will advance the quality of life in the Emirate

Another company that has adopted new farming techniques is Badia Farms. The company created the GCC’s first commercial vertical farm, which grows leafy green vegetables using coconut husks instead of soil.

Badia Farms uses hydroponic technology to eliminate pesticides or chemicals and opt for minimum water usage. Hydroponic farming isn’t entirely new and it mainly consists of growing plants without the need for soil and sun and using LED lights and minimum water consumption instead.

The farm produces at least 18 varieties of micro-greens that are packed with antioxidants and rich nutrients, including arugula, kale, radish, red cabbage, basil and mustard.

The crops being grown are said to be “purer than organic,” as they are cultivated in a chemical-free and pesticide-free environment.

‘Growing crops in the region has always been a challenge due to the hostile climate’ has said Mr Al Jundi, the farm entrepreneur.

Modelled after greenhouses, vertical farming contributes positively to food security and agricultural sustainability.

Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, had officially inaugurated Badia Farms, describing it as an “exceptional example of how the UAE’s agricultural industry can thrive while protecting our environment for future generations.”

In countries like the UAE, food waste and water usage are major issues that call for action at all times. When companies are stepping up to provide cutting-edge solutions, then the community is highly benefited.