Mainly produce and fruit, the UAE must import food because the arid environment is not conducive to growing a variety of leafy plants. While importing food ensures the population does not go hungry, it often results in more expensive, less fresh food, with a lower nutrient density. And, as we saw with covid-19 last year, food supply chains are fragile. Relying on other countries to grow your food is no longer always reliable.
Controlled environment agriculture, like greenhouses and vertical farming, offers a hyper-local alternative to importing food by making agriculture accessible in harsh environments. With the use of new technologies, companies can capitalize on the sprawling desert and sunshine. The UAE's three deserts offer a massive amount of real estate for building warehouses for vertical farms and an almost unlimited solar power supply. Although water is scarce, vertical farming uses over 90% less water than traditional farming.
In the private sector, Dubai is home to many different agtech companies. Badia farms produces lettuce, herbs, and microgreens for chefs, caterers, and restaurants. Madar farms is experimenting with other agtech solutions like container farms and indoor “kitchen gardens” for chefs. Crop one is planning to build the largest vertical farm in the world and partner with Emirates airlines. Green Factory Emirates partnered with veteran indoor growing experts from the Netherlands, GrowGroup IFS, to develop the world’s largest indoor farm (including vertical farming and traditional farming techniques) that will yield 10,000 tons of food annually. & Ever is not building a farm in Dubai yet, but their headquarters is based there. In Abu Dhabi, Pure Harvest opened a ‘smart’ hydroponic tomato farm that utilizes bees in its greenhouses. Another excellent use of indoor growing, Al Aliyo Hydrofarms is a hydroponic farm growing organic fodder for livestock.
Aquaculture is also present. Fish Farm boasts the largest fish farm in the UAE, with three fish hatcheries providing a local, sustainable source of shrimp, hammour, sea bass, and sea bream.