Abu Dhabi: The Al Dahra BayWa Greenhouse was inaugurated in Al Ain on Sunday, with the facility expected to locally produce 3,000 tonnes of tomatoes with the aim of helping the UAE become more self-sufficient in its food production.
The greenhouse is part of a €40 million (Dh167 million) joint venture between BayWa AG from Munich, Germany, and Abu Dhabi-based Al Dahra. The Al Dahra BayWa facility comprises two greenhouses, each one covering five acres. It is expected that the volume of tomatoes produced will help reduce the UAE’s reliance on imported produce, which now comprises 90 per cent of all supplies.
The opening of the facility was attended by several officials including Mohammad Al Bawardi, Minister of State for Defence, and Mariam Bint Mohammad Saeed Hareb Al Muhairi, Minister of State for Food Security. The event also welcomed Khadim Al Derai, vice-president of Al Dahra Agricultural Company; Saeed Albahri Salem Alameri, director general of Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority; Khalifa Ahmed Al Ali, managing director of Abu Dhabi Food Security Centre; and Frank Mullen, Dutch ambassador to the UAE.
Important step for the future
The new farm has been touted as an important component in the UAE’s National Future Food Security Strategy, which aims to ensure adequate food production for the country with a minimum use of resources and with a reliance on those resources that are renewable by adoption of advanced technologies that adapt to UAE’s environment.
Around 100 people are employed in various functions in the Al Dahra BayWa greenhouse, with its pickers specially trained to select the fruit only at the right stage of ripeness for the shelves. The harvested tomatoes are weighed and packaged automatically, with the packaging developed according to sustainability principles and the film able to be resealed more than 20 times. “Facilities such as the Al Dahra BayWa greenhouse are essential to help the UAE achieve independent food production and food security for its citizens,” said Mariam Al Muhairi.
“The food alliance is taking tremendous steps to import new technologies that are based on innovative concepts and advanced know-how, which are considered the basis for sustainable food security and are among the pillars of food security strategies. In the UAE, we made sure that our National Future Food Security Strategy includes plans and initiatives to promote locally grown, technology-based foods,” she added.
“The strategy is the first of its kind in the world; it aims to establish a framework to ensure food security in the UAE in both the short and long terms. The plan is being developed in collaboration with prominent decision makers, academics and experts from the government and private sectors who are collaborating to set sustainable, long-term policies for future food security in the UAE,” Al Muhairi said.
BayWa chief executive officer Prof. Klaus Josef Lutz lauded the partnership with Al Dahra Agricultural Company that led to the inauguration of the future-focused Al Dahra BayWa Greenhouse project.
“We consider the UAE to be a prominent and lucrative market with enormous potential for international growth. We have witnessed increased efforts to bring farmers and consumers closer together, and this development has certainly had its effects on our decision-making process,” he said.
For his part, Khadim Al Derai reminded the audience of the great emphasis placed by the UAE’s founding father, the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, on agriculture, saying: “We are here today, owing to the forward-thinking directives of our wise leadership, to witness the late Shaikh Zayed’s dream come true, with agricultural projects and lands spread across the country.”
“The Al Dahra BayWa Company forms part of the UAE’s National Future Food Security Strategy,” Al Derai continued. “We see great potential for regional growth and we are confident that this collaboration has all the necessary conditions for success in the rapidly-growing private sector. Since its inception, the Al Dahra company has sought to support sustainability and food security in the UAE, implementing several successful agriculture projects to produce and trade animal feed, meats, essential food products, as well as to manage the supply chain from start to finish.”
Work on the project began in February 2017; it covers an area of 10 hectares, and uses the latest agriculture technologies and was planned and executed under the supervision of top experts. The facility consumes 67 per cent less water than traditional greenhouses — around 750,000 gallons per day — and the cooling technology employed is the first of its kind in the world.