Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The Dubai-based Food Tech Valley will host a 900,000 square feet ‘GigaFarm’ – with the aim to recycle more than 50,000 tonnes of food waste. And it will also grow 2 billion plants each year. Construction will start mid-2024.

This will be part of a new deal with ReFarm, launched by SSK Enterprise and Christof Global Impact. The promoters chose vertical farming technology developed by infrastructure supplier Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS).

"The decision of ReFarm to launch a facility in Dubai’s Food Tech Valley is a significant step forwards for the development of a technologically advanced, low-carbon agricultural sector," said Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade.

“Rethinking our food production systems is a clear priority. ReFarm’s mission to make farming autonomous, self-sufficient and sustainable is very much in line with our goal to use innovative techniques to meet our food needs.”

The GigaFarm project will start construction mid-2024. Image Credit: Supplied

Focus on food - and security

The UAE has been mapping out a strategy to bring farming possibilities, opening up more land parcels that would be conducive to grow it. Also, vertical farming is taking on more visibility, and there is more that UAE enterprises hope to get out of it.

Our approach contributes to wider ambitions of food security and landscape regeneration, with the vertical farming towers capable of growing more than 250 varieties of plants, seedlings and saplings, from salads, herbs and leafy greens, through to fruiting crops and tree seedlings

- Saeed Al Marri, Chairman at SSK Enterprises

Turning waste into good

Agritech or foodtech startups have been getting serious investor buy-in post-Covid. The Food Tech Valley's creation itself was about providing a dedicated hub to such ventures, and back them up with initiatives.

This is where the GigaFarm comes in. The site will be 'capable of growing more than 3 million kilos of produce annually', and support the UAE’s move towards 'decarbonising food production'

The wider goal? Replace 1 per cent of the country’s fresh produce imports. With construction to begin mid-2024, the site expected to be fully operational by 2026.

The food waste will be recycled on-site by 'black soldier fly larvae, with by-products including organic compost used in traditional agricultural practices'.

There will also be animal feed replacing 'unsustainable fish meal and soy oil, and water for use in the vertical farming towers.

"The technologies on site will also recover up to 90 per cent of ammonia sulphate from wastewater for use in plant fertilisers," said a statement. "And produce organic biodegradable polymers designed to gradually release water and nutrients to crops in arid regions."

More than another 'farm'

According to David Farquhar, CEO of IGS, “This is so much more than just another announcement about plans to build a large-scale vertical farm - albeit that with a growing area of more than 87,000 square metres it will be very large.

"This site takes the concept of vertical farming as just one building block in a system that brings together technologies to solve multiple challenges simultaneously, all in one of the most extreme environments on the planet."

More to follow...