Dubai: By next year, Dubai will have the world’s largest vertical farm that will produce tonnes of pesticide-free vegetables every single day.
Emirates Flight Catering (EKFC), a subsidiary of Emirates Group, announced on Monday that the company and another firm based in the US, Crop One Holdings, will co-invest $40 million (Dh146 million) to set up a giant indoor farm that is going to break the world record for vertical farming.
The green facility will utilise less water and cover an area of 130,000 square feet but it is capable of producing crops equivalent to 900 acres of farmland. It is in line with the long-term vision to make the desert nation self-sufficient, capable of growing its own food.
A huge chunk of the food consumed in the UAE comes from foreign markets. As of 2015, it was estimated that the UAE imports 85 per cent of its food and in 2014 alone, spending on food imports reached $100 billion (Dh367 billion).
According to proponents of the project, the farming facility will be able to yield three US tonnes (2,700 kilos) of “high-quality, herbicide-free and pesticide-free leafy greens daily” and it will be located near Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central.
Vertical farming, which uses hydroponic technology, is revolutionising the way humans produce their own food. It enables the production of vegetables in large quantities without using soil, sunlight and chemicals.
And this is not the first time the technology is being introduced in the UAE. Last year, Badia Farms announced plans to build the region’s first commercial vertical farm in Al Quoz Industrial Area 1.
Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airline and Group said the announcement is an important milestone not only for the Emirates Group, but also for Dubai and the whole UAE.
“This investment to build and operate the world’s largest vertical farming facility aligns with the UAE’s drive for more agricultural self-sufficiency, a vision which began with the late His Highness Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s founding father. The introduction of ground-breaking technology at the facility also enhances Dubai’s position as a global innovation hub.”
And since the farm will be located near the airport, there will be less carbon fooprint in the delivery of agricultural products from the farm, and customers can expect to get their leafy greens within hours of harvest.
Work on the project will kick off before the end of the year, in November 2018. It will take 12 months to build the facility, so by the end of 2019, the farm will be completed.
By December 2019, Emirates Flight Catering is expected to deliver the first batch of produce to its customers, which include 105 airlines and 25 airport lounges.