Dubai: Baby potatoes, rice, wheat to be grown in vertical farm

The farm is based on complete automation, minimising human intervention

by

Waad Barakat

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KT Photo: Shihab
KT Photo: Shihab

Published: Tue 14 May 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Tue 14 May 2024, 11:32 PM

Leafy greens, tomatoes, baby potatoes, rice, and wheat are some of the crops that will be grown in Dubai's vertical farm. The farm, in the heart of the desert, has been designed to produce fresh vegetables within a controlled factory setting by UAE-based sustainable agricultural and food technology startup, Pure Food Technology.

The vertical hydroponic farm is powered by artificial intelligence, solar energy, robotics, and innovation-patented technology.


"This system has been specifically developed for the desert, where water resource is scarce but sunlight is readily available,” said Sebastian Carlton, CEO of Pure Food Technology. “With minimum interference and with the robotics and AI all you need will be a source of water and the solar energy.”

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Innovative techniques

Located in Jebel Ali Industrial Area, the pilot vertical farm uses innovative techniques to grow vegetable crops without soil. This method involves replacing soil with a nutrient-rich water solution and allowing plant roots to grow in a deep-water culture.

As a proof of concept, the farm demonstrates the feasibility of hydroponic farming by growing vegetable crops within just 35 days. "If you're in California, for example, growing lettuce, you get two crops a year. In Pure Food, we can produce one crop in 35 days. We can produce 100 kilograms per day, which is equivalent to 1,000 boxes of mixed salads," said Carlton.

The pilot vertical farm is not limited to a single crop and can cultivate a diverse range of produce. As the sustainable start-up continues to refine and develop its innovative technologies, it is also contributing to the community by distributing the fresh produce from its factory to labour camps, supporting the welfare of workers in the UAE.

Transforming farming practices

The agricultural startup aims to transform farming practices and food security, and to help the UAE change from a net importer to a net exporter of plant-based food.

This vertical farm is based on complete automation, minimising human intervention throughout the farming process. From planting to packaging, the farm relies on robotics and artificial intelligence, ensuring efficient and precise operations.

Carlton emphasised the significance of investing in upcoming technologies to meet food demands. “As the population grows, the only way to feed these populations is by investing new technology into farming," he shared. He also highlighted how this technological breakthrough enables the UAE to become self-reliant in food production, aligning with the country's vision of sustainability, and renewable energy utilisation.

He further explained the limitations inherent in traditional agriculture practices. Historically, food has been cultivated near water sources or regions with favourable climates. Geographic dependency poses significant challenges to food demands.

"When we consider how we can revolutionize agriculture, we must focus on utilizing the land and not limit ourselves to any area. With this system, we can plant anywhere in the desert. One of our devices also filters the water to suit the seeds, so any water can be used, whether salty water or unfiltered, so we don’t limit ourselves to water as well," Carlton added.

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