Complex Made Simple

Say goodbye to importing fruits and veggies in the UAE

The UAE has embraced a high-impact agri solution by opening its first commercial vertical farm in Dubai, featuring the latest hydroponic technology and agricultural techniques.

Badia Farms, the GCC’s first vertical farm, was officially inaugurated by Dr Thani Ahmad Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, 5 days ago.

The individuals behind this innovative farming solution are Omar Al Jundi, an entrepreneur from Saudi Arabia, and Grahame Dunling, a British agricultural expert.

Their aim is that such farms will eventually produce enough fruits and vegetables within the region that they remove the need to import these items from abroad.

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The need of the hour

Vertical farms are immune to weather, so crops can be grown year-round, under optimal conditions.

According to Dr Al Zeyoudi, Badia Farms is an “exceptional example of how the UAE’s agricultural industry can thrive while protecting our environment for future generations.”

Such solutions are all the more necessary taking into consideration the fact that the world’s population is expected to reach 9.1 billion people in 2050 and food demand, consequently, will be on the rise.

Experts estimate that farmers globally must increase food production by 70% compared to 2007 levels to meet the needs of the larger population, according to a report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Water availability, environmental impacts and soil health will continue to challenge growers in the future.

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What is a vertical farm?

A vertical farm is as simple as it sounds: it is a multi-storey greenhouse where fruit and vegetables are grown in stacked up towers. One acre of skyscraper floor is expected to produce the equivalent of ten to 20 traditional soil-based acres.

Further, employing clean-room technologies means no pesticides or herbicides.

But the science part of it, or hydroponics, isn’t as simple.

Hydroponics is a technique of growing produce without soil.

Seeds are planted in a sterile, soil-less growing environment and then grown in nutrient-rich water.

Water is recycled and air and water temperature, humidity and lighting are controlled to create the perfect growing environment.

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Thus, vertical farms can grow non-native produce in locations where traditional agricultural methods are impossible – such as deserts, for example.

Dr Al Zeyoudi noted: “Hydroponic technology will be a major contributor to agricultural sustainability and food diversity and security, as it enhances crop production and lowers cost”.

“We commend the successful endeavour of Badia Farms, which reaffirms the UAE’s position as a leading incubator for innovation,” he added.

Badia Farms began production in December 2017 and offers an extensive range of lettuces, micro-greens and baby leaf herb varieties, as well as micro-greens, such as arugula, kale, radish, red cabbage, basils and mustard. What’s truly amazing is that all of this is done using 90 per cent less water than traditional farming methods.

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Promoting sustainability

Speaking at the 21st National Environment Day Exhibition in mid-February at the Festival Arena in Festival City Dubai, Dr Al Zeyoudi noted that the rapid economic growth of the UAE over the past four decades have resulted in booming population growth as well as increased income levels.

These in turn have contributed to production and consumption patterns that are not sustainable in the long run.

Therefore, he continued, the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment has undertaken numerous initiatives to promote sustainable production and consumption patterns in the country.

“In the UAE, we believe that sustainable production and consumption are part of the national responsibility of both institutions and individuals,” he said.

“The consumer society is increasingly gaining importance in this regard, as it dictates production trends and influences producer responsibility.”

This article was contributed by: Sonali Kumar