UAE to launch hydroponic vertical farming in 2020

With the UAE making strides in agriculture, and now competing globally by marketing fresh local produce, it’s now adding to this by launching a new hydroponic vertical farm.

Set to launch in Q3 of 2020, the vertical farming company Smart Acres will be set up in Abu Dhabi, with an aim to expand across the UAE.

The new systems aims to develop the UAE’s farming capabilities, along with improving food security to potential socioeconomic threats, such as pandemics, and to help business locally source food produce from UAE farms.

The company has designed farm modules using a IoT-based technology system to grow and monitor their produce, a system that consumes less resources and generates ultra-high quality crops.

Smart Acres’ vertical farming method completely reduces water waste, depletion of nutrients in soil and infestation of insects, along with the elimination of any pesticides.

Currently, the company is producing a variety of lettuce and herbs, such as green glace, oakleaf, lollo rosso, and shiso, with plans to eventually grow baby spinach, mature spinach, and baby arugula.

Looking for locally sourced greens and can’t get enough of fresh fruit, vegetable and more? Check out these organic markets to shop at.



  • Desert Gulf Arab states rely on food imports for between 80 percent and 90 percent of local demand
  • Expensive programs to increase food output in the region have in the past struggled to cope with the hot climate and lack of water

    DUBAI: As coronavirus lockdowns crush businesses around the world, high-tech farming projects in the United Arab Emirates are eyeing large growth as authorities plow funds into agritech projects.
    The desert Gulf Arab states, which rely on food imports for 80-90 percent of local demand, have for years spent billions of dollars on agricultural investments outside their borders in a quest for food security.

But as the fast-spreading virus piles pressure on global food supply chains and agricultural producers threaten export curbs, local producers hope they can now play a bigger role.

“Locally farmed produce are now in more demand, whereas food imports are negatively impacted with closure of borders and airports,” Omar Al-Jundi, CEO of Dubai-based vertical farming business Badia Farms, told Reuters.
The facility, which can grow fruits and vegetables, is producing 200-250 kilograms of leafy greens a day.
“The world as we know it has changed forever. From a macro standpoint, governments will go back to localizing certain vital industries, such as agriculture, to ensure supply will never be interrupted.”

Expensive programs to increase food output in the region have in the past struggled to cope with the hot climate and lack of water.
But the Gulf region’s petrodollars put it in a position to take risks with new technologies that are capable of commercializing crops using significantly less water in harsh environments.

The oil-rich UAE capital Abu Dhabi in 2019 approved a series of incentive packages worth 1 billion dirhams ($272 million) to support agricultural technology projects.
In April, Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) said it was investing $100 million of that sum in four companies that would build facilities in the emirate, including US-based AeroFarms.

“In some parts of the world people say prove it first then come here but in the UAE there is this mentality of I will do it first and I will do it bigger and better,” said AeroFarms CEO and co-founder David Rosenberg.

AeroFarms is setting up an 8,200 square meter research and development center in Abu Dhabi, the largest indoor vertical farm of its kind, to help bring fresh fruit and vegetables grown in vertical farms to local markets at an affordable price.
Indoor vertical farming, a controlled-environment form of agriculture in which crops are vertically stacked in layers, has been shown by AeroFarms to use up to 95 percent less water for some crops.

“In the US we have been able to bring our costs down to the point where we sell at the same price of field farmers in the category of organics, that is around a 20 percent premium,” he said.

“It is a good litmus test and that is our goal here and I think we can achieve it.”
In many countries around the world, lockdowns have caused an acute shortage of farm labor, meaning millions of tons of fruit and vegetables could be left unpicked this year.
Abu Dhabi emirate produced 122,550 tons of vegetables in the 2018-19 season, according to state media.
ADIO is willing to bet on new technology at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has changed how corporations work due to global containment measures, including lockdowns. The Abu Dhabi program hopes to create an agricultural innovation hub that attracts like-minded companies.
“Will every technology work? Potentially not, but these things feed off each other,” ADIO Director General Tariq Bin Hendi said.

“You look at experiences that we are all going through today with these lockdowns, the one thing that is highlighted is the need for more technology.”




  • Traditional agriculture faces a double threat from an older population and migration to the citiesKYOTO: The nondescript building on an industrial site near Kyoto gives little hint to the productivity inside: 30,000 heads of lettuce grow here daily, under artificial light and with barely any human intervention.

    This “vegetable factory,” using the latest vertical farming techniques, is part of a trend born out of necessity in Japan, where traditional farming faces a double threat from the aging population and migration toward the cities.


With the average age of a farmer in Japan at 67 and few candidates to replace those dying out, the country has been forced to become a pioneer in so-called vertical farming.

Globally renowned firms such as Panasonic, Toshiba and Fujitsu have tried their hand — converting old semi-conductor production lines with varying levels of success.

One of the few companies to turn a quick profit, Spread produces 11 million heads of lettuce annually from its latest factory in Kyoto, a vast sterile area where the vegetables are stacked on shelves several meters high.

Machines shift the lettuces around the factory to areas where the light, temperature and humidity are ideal for that stage of growth. The process works without soil or pesticide, and only a dozen or so humans are employed to collect the lettuce at the end.

Other countries have employed vertical farming techniques — notably in Denmark and the US — but Japan’s population crisis means the farmers are dying out, with question marks over how the world’s third-biggest economy will feed itself.

“Given the lack of manpower and decline in agricultural production, I felt a new system was needed,” said Shinji Inada, Spread’s boss.

Spread has taken some time to make the process nearly fully automated: an older factory in Kyoto still employs several dozen humans to move the lettuce — a “difficult task,” admits one staff member.

But the advantages are clear: “We can produce in large quantities and at a stable rate all year round, without being affected by temperature changes,” said Inada.

“The other benefit is that we have few losses because our products are preserved for longer,” added the vegetable tycoon.

Inada said that the firm initially experienced some difficulty in selling the lettuce, but they have now grown a good brand by producing consistent quality at a consistent price — in a country where prices vary considerably depending on the season.

Spread’s lettuce are found on supermarket shelves in Kyoto and the capital Tokyo and Inada has grand expansion visions to move production closer to where the vegetables are consumed.

The firm is building a factory in Narita near Tokyo and is eyeing further afield to countries where the climate is not suited for such agriculture. “We can easily export our production system to very warm or very cold climates to grow lettuce,” said Inada.

But is this system environmentally friendly? Inada said that he hesitated before launching the concept over this very question but finally reasoned the pros outweighed the cons. “It’s true that we use more energy compared to production using the sun, but on the other hand our productivity is higher over a similar surface area,” he said.

The system allows the firm to produce eight crops of lettuce per year, irrespective of the season. Spread also uses significantly less water than traditional agricultural methods. “I believe we are contributing to a sustainable agriculture for our society,” Inada said.

Japan already has about 200 lettuce factories using artificial light but the majority of these are small-scale. However, according to specialist consultancy group Innoplex, such factories will double in number by 2025.

And other companies are jumping on the smart-agriculture bandwagon, with Mitsubishi Gas Chemical building a factory in northeastern Fukushima that will produce 32,000 heads of lettuce daily.

Nor is its just lettuce: Tomatoes and strawberries grown by computer under artificial light are on their way to a table near you.




Strip cultivation also tested in Germany. On a large scale and with positive results. Nice picture with that rapeseed!
Scientists and environmentalists have long been warning of insect death due to the operation of huge monocultures in agriculture. For this reason, a pilot project was started a year ago, accompanied by the universities of Göttingen and Kiel, in which wheat and rapeseed were alternately cultivated in strips on large arable land as a mixed crop. The juxtaposition of narrow fields with many edges serves as an orientation for insects and enables them to have a “complementary diet”. The results after the first year are promising: According to the University of Göttingen, a total of more than 50 percent more insect species were found in the streak field than in rapeseed or wheat monoculture.

Significantly more birds and wild bees

According to the University of Göttingen, there were three times as many wild bees on the strip field during the rapeseed blossom compared to the rapeseed monoculture. A total of 51 wild bee species were found. Strip cultivation also shows a positive effect for the bird population. Around twice as many birds can be found on the strip field as on the rapeseed and wheat monocultures and they showed around twice as many species. These included: Skylark, Kestrel, Marsh Harrier, Yellow Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Common Warbler, Common Swift, Barn Swallow, Eurasian Sparrow, Hedge Brownelle and Barn Swallow.

Two different resources close together

Teja Tscharnke from the University of Göttingen explains: “Small fields or stripes mean that more species can live in these fields because two different resources are close together. This lures different insect species into the field.” The decline in pests is also a positive effect: the wheat in the streak field is only affected by half as many cereal aphids as the wheat monoculture. In rape, the infestation by rapeseed beetles is reduced in the strip field.

Strip field: “attractive and inexpensive measure”

According to Tscharnke, the installation of striped fields is an attractive, cost-effective measure to promote biodiversity in agriculture, which for the farmer does not involve any loss of land. The advantages could be compared with those of switching to organic farming. Because of the promising first results, the investigations would be continued and even expanded: in 2019 three farmers were involved, this year there are already twelve.




  • The Salam Veterinary Camel Hospital, in the Qassim region, cost an estimated SR100 million ($26.66 million) and aims to allow the private sector to provide camel breeders with veterinary services
    The world’s largest and most modern camel hospital is nearing completion in the Kingdom, the Saudi Press Agency reported, with the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture following up on the facility’s final construction and operational stages.

The Salam Veterinary Camel Hospital, in the Qassim region, cost an estimated SR100 million ($26.66 million) and aims to allow the private sector to provide camel breeders with veterinary services and ensure the sector’s sustainability and development.

The ministry’s undersecretary for animal resources, Dr. Hamad Al-Batshan, reviewed the project’s progress and the Salam Veterinary Group’s expansion plan, including the construction of another hospital.




Riyadh, Apr 21, 2020, SPA — The extraordinary meeting of G20 Agriculture Ministers was concluded today by issuing a final communique which reads as follows:
“We, the G20 Agriculture Ministers, are deeply saddened by the devastating human losses and suffering caused by the spread of COVID-19. We commit to cooperating closely and taking concrete actions to safeguard global food security and nutrition.

We reaffirm the importance of working to ensure the continued flow of food, products, and inputs essential for agricultural and food production across borders in line with our Leaders’ Statement on COVID-19 of March 26, 2020.

We acknowledge the challenges of minimizing the risk of COVID-19 while keeping food supply chains functioning. We will continue to work to ensure the health, safety, welfare, and mobility of workers in agriculture and throughout the food supply chain.

We will guard against any unjustified restrictive measures that could lead to excessive food price volatility in international markets and threaten the food security and nutrition of large proportions of the world population, especially the most vulnerable living in environments of low food security. We agree that emergency measures in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic must be targeted, proportionate, transparent, and temporary, and that they do not create unnecessary barriers to trade or disruption to global food supply chains, and are consistent with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. We recognize the importance of transparency and commend the Trade and Investment Ministers’ commitment to notify the WTO of any trade-related measures taken, including those related to agriculture and essential foodstuffs. We reaffirm our agreement not to impose export restrictions or extraordinary taxes on food and agricultural products purchased for non-commercial humanitarian purposes by the World Food Programme (WFP) and other humanitarian agencies.

We emphasize the work of the G20 Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) and take note of AMIS’ assessment that at present global food supplies are adequate and food markets remain well balanced. As members, we commit and call on other members to continue providing timely and reliable information on global food market fundamentals to help markets, countries, and consumers make informed choices. Where appropriate, we will coordinate policy responses, supported by the AMIS Global Food Market Information Group and the AMIS Rapid Response Forum. We call for continued support for AMIS, including through voluntary financial contributions.”




RIYADH — The measures and initiatives taken by the Saudi Arabian government to address coronavirus impact have contributed to mitigating coronavirus impact on the agricultural sector and strengthening food security through Agricultural Development Fund (ADF) support packages worth around SR2 billion and SR450 million.

Since the beginning of the crisis and in line with government efforts to reduce the economic impacts of coronavirus pandemic, the Fund has been keen to support its clients to ensure the continuation of agricultural activities, and to contribute to the continuation of food supply chains and the abundance of agricultural products.

The Fund launched the “Financing the importation of agricultural products targeted in food security strategy’ with a total worth of SR2 billion, and the Fund has approved four contracts worth SR348 million until now. This initiative focused on importing rice, sugar, yellow corn and soybeans from abroad.

With regard to forms of support to its clients, the Agricultural Development Fund has allocated SR300 million for the working capital initiative represented by direct operational loans or through commercial banks, and it has approved financing 29 loans at a total value exceeding SR207 million.

The number of beneficiaries benefiting from postponing the installments of small and medium enterprises projects initiative has reached 4,395, and deferred installments amounted to 4,752 at a total value of SR150 million.

The Fund’s initiatives come in implementation of the directives of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman to work on serving the priorities of development and economic needs, and as a continuation of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to support the private agricultural sector to play its active role in economic development, and contribute to achieving food security.

The Fund calls on all beneficiaries to visit the website ( to request financing products, inquire or for e-services. For more information on the initiatives visit: — SPA