Rachana Shah, Co-founder and Director, Armela Farms Image Credit: Supplied

Could you tell us a bit about Armela Farms explaining why you started this venture?

We felt there was a huge gap in the market for locally produced lettuce, especially premium quality produce that is on par with imported varieties.

In 2016, we launched Armela Farms particularly to fill this gap. We spent more than two years in research and development to explore the best techniques, varieties of produce and optimum climate conditions, before celebrating our first harvest in August 2018. Since then, the team has advanced the process to achieve over 250 per cent increase in production.

With a production area of 10,000 square metres and a team of 40 people, our farm is located in Margham, Dubai, producing 5,500 lettuce heads per day. Currently, we are in the process of finalising the opening of a new facility in the first quarter of 2021, which will produce 20,000 lettuce heads per day and will be run by a team of just 10 people.

Could you give us some information on your expansion plans?

The new facility opening in the first quarter of next year will boast over three hectares of fully automated, advanced data-driven lettuce growing facility in the UAE. The 2021 project is the largest commercial hydroponic project in the GCC using artificial intelligence, with annual production capacity of nine million lettuce heads, which is equivalent to 2,300 tonnes. Our produce will be 100 per cent pesticide free and available 365 days of the year.

Tell us about the various types of lettuce you grow in your farms. What other products do you grow?

Armela Farms produces a wide variety of lettuce, kale and baby spinach. The basic lettuce varieties are Lolla Bionda, Lolla Rosso, oakleaf green, oakleaf red, butter head and little gem. We are the first and only producer to grow the salanova range of lettuce in the UAE. What makes this range special is that with one cut, salanova separates into lots of lettuce leaves. We also produce a variety of kale such as green curly kale, red kale and Toscano Kale.

We will be launching a new salad range soon prepared from our premium hand-picked lettuce, which are harvested, cut and packed to reach the shelves on the same day. Furthermore, we have just started the production of baby spinach.

Focus on reseacrh

Since its launch in 2016, Armela farms has undertaken various research and development initiatives to decrease water consumption, carbon footprint, pesticides usage and plant residues. Armela Farms has been able to recycle 100 per cent of irrigation water using the right cooling and growing system. It has also been able to produce 100 per cent pesticides-free lettuce during summer and winter using integrated pest management and biological control techniques.

For more information, visit Armelafarms.com

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