A first-of-its-kind in Dubai, this indoor farm produces leafy greens without using soil, sunlight and pesticides. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The Gulf region’s first-of-its-kind farm that seeks to produce vegetables in large quantities without the need for soil, sunlight and chemicals has just opened.

Badia Farms announced on Tuesday that plans to set up the GCC’s first commercial vertical indoor farm has just come to fruition, and UAE residents can now start getting their leafy greens on the same day of harvest.

The company, owned by Saudi Arabian businessman Omar Al Jundi and British agricultural expert Grahame Dunling, is using the latest hydroponic technology and vertical farming techniques to produce pesticide-free vegetables without using soil, sunlight or chemicals.

The indoor farm is located in Al Quoz Industrial Area 1, just a few minutes from Shaikh Zayed Road, and occupies an area of 8,500 square feet. It produces at least 18 varieties of micro-greens that are packed with antioxidants and rich nutrients, including arugula, kale, radish, red cabbage, basils 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.

The greens are being manufactured in a controlled indoor facility using technology that lets farmers grow plants without the need for soil and requires less water. And instead of exposing the plants outdoors to enjoy full sun, LED lights are being used to mimic the sunlight that the crops require.

Hydroponic farming isn’t entirely new, and some residents in the UAE have in fact already started setting up soil-less gardens inside their home as a hobby.

Louise, an expatriate from France, started experimenting with hydroponics in the summer. In his living room, there’s a small bed of crops consisting mainly of chilli and tomatoes.

He has also set up vertical stacks of crop beds, in which he intends to grow other herbs and leafy greens, including basils, rosemary, thyme and lettuce.

But unlike Badia Farms, the tiny garden is using natural sunlight, but it also doesn’t use as much water as one would in soil farming.

“I can just leave it there without bothering myself to water it,” he said. But for now, the mini soil-less garden will just be a fixture in the living room.”

“I don’t think I’m going to use it as my main source of food. There are still chemicals in it.”

But for Badia Farms, the goal is to revolutionize the way the UAE acquires its regular supply of produce, according to Omar Al Jundi, founder and chief executive officer.

The UAE has a vibrant dining and hospitality culture wherein restaurants are popping up at almost every corner, yet most of the food served on the table is imported.

With the country’s arid environment that makes it not conducive for farming, it is estimated that more than 80 per cent of UAE residents’ food requirements comes from abroad, travelling thousands of miles before it reaches the plate.

 “Through vertical indoor farming methods, we can dramatically reduce the carbon footprint and grow leafy greens that are fresher, tastier and delivered from farm to table within hours,” noted Al Jundi.