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Ashok Doshi at his farm in Ras Al Khaimah Image Credit: Supplied
Gulf News

Dubai: Real estate developer Ashok Doshi, 53, has learnt some hard lessons during the pandemic. From running a comfortable real estate business in Dubai, circumstances changed his perspective towards life and made him turn adversity into opportunity.

“Prior to COVID-19, I had invested in millions of dirhams in real estate developments in Dubai. Now my money is frozen. One day I was sitting with my family and discussing the toll this pandemic has taken on our business. Our cash flow was hit. I had to do something real quick.”

And so Doshi decided to divert his money from construction to agriculture in the UAE. This led to the birth of Farm Fresh, a line of organic produce of fresh vegetables and fruits now available at leading supermarkets in the UAE.

“I had bought a large piece of land in Ras Al Khaimah for my personal agricultural needs. The situation demanded I think bigger and do something more constructive with the piece of land.”

The law of impermanence

“One of the biggest lessons the pandemic has taught me is the law of impermanence. Every single thing from the global weather pattern to our individual cellular structure is constantly changing, and understanding and accepting this reality gives us the ability to look past any negativity.”

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Ashok Doshi says COVID-19 helped him experiment with hydroponic farming, with the result that he has now become a huge supplier of locally grown produce in the UAE. Image Credit: Supplied

As he put this lesson to practice, he said, “I had to survive. I had to continue doing business. But I had to think beyond real estate property development. Farm Fresh harvest is a cultivation of this philosophy paired with my adamant belief that one must always do what gives them a sense of satisfaction, and it must always have a positive impact on the people and environment.”

Finding opportunity in adversity

Doshi said, “In 2015 I acquired a 180,000 square feet farm in Ras Al Khaimah. It was intended to be the place for my family and me to get away on weekends. The arid landscape also reminded me of my humble childhood in Kutch, Gujarat in India. I was doing small-time farming here just to take care of my home produce. During the pandemic, I experimented with modern agricultural methods and discovered hydroponic farming.”

He said in many ways the pandemic forced the real estate developer in him to turn into a farmer.

On another expanse of land in Ras Al Khaimah measuring 690,000 square feet, he started farming in April when the UAE went on a national sterilisation drive.

Today, in lesss than six months, he said he has been managing a robust supply of herbs and leafy greens like Basil, lettuce, kale, thyme, rosemary, spinach among others.

He said the venture had helped create short-term employment for hundreds of jobseekers too.

“By growing products locally, we are displacing those competitors who would grow halfway across the world and fly them over in refrigerated transport polluting the atmosphere with sizeable amounts of carbon. We have actively minimised technology so we can provide more jobs and growth opportunities for people.

“Farm Fresh is a project that I started for sentimental reasons and by a stroke of luck, I found that money does grow on trees.”