UAE: World's largest indoor vertical farm opens in Abu Dhabi for R&D

The facility consists of a grow chamber, precision indoor plants’ room, speed breeding room where trees are being grown


Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Wed 15 Feb 2023, 7:14 PM

The world’s largest indoor vertical farm of its kind for research and development (R&D) has opened in Abu Dhabi’s industrial area of Mussafah.

The 65,000 sqft state-of-the-art R&D facility is New Jersey-headquartered AeroFarms’ first indoor vertical farm outside the US. AeroFarms AgX, launched with the support of the Abu Dhabi Investment Office, is focused on bringing innovative research and development to the region.

Fadi Sbati, general manager AeroFarms AgX, told Khaleej Times that the facility aims to solve some of the World’s most pressing agriculture challenges.

“We are trying to substitute whatever happens in nature from weather, sunrise, the difference in temperatures and humidity, and try to simulate it indoors for a plant to grow healthy,” Sbati said.

The facility consists of a grow chamber, precision indoor plants’ room, speed breeding room where trees are being grown, R&D environmental growth chamber, R&D lab space etc.

“We are not producing at this facility. This is fully dedicated to R&D. Scientists, researchers and engineers will try to find proper algorithms for a perfect growth, and solutions for the industry. We are experimenting with around 30 leafy greens and also lettuce, which is a special product,” Sbati noted.

Currently, there are a team of 12 scientists and engineers, including a few Emiratis, working at the facility. AeroFarms AgX will employ more than 60 engineers, horticulturists, and scientists for its high-tech labs conducting organoleptic research and precision phenotyping, phytochemical analysis, as well as research on next-generation machine vision, machine learning, robotics, and automation.

AeroFarms’ indoor vertical farming technology provides the perfect conditions for healthy plants to thrive, while using up to 95 per cent less water and no pesticides.

Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, congratulated the team of AeroFarms for establishing a base in Abu Dhabi, and underlined the importance of growing chemical and pesticide free food.

The facility is supported by the ADIO as part of its goal to create sustainable investment opportunities to further next generation agriculture in arid and desert environments.

Eng. Abdulla Abdul Aziz AlShamsi, acting director general, ADIO, said: “Abu Dhabi has made it a priority to advance technological solutions that further economic progress for the region and beyond, and AgTech falls perfectly into this category.”

AeroFarms AgX will play a key role in Abu Dhabi’s AgTech ecosystem by working with local companies and universities on research projects to tackle problems of agriculture within desert and arid climates.

“AeroFarms has been expanding globally for both our commercial and R&D indoor vertical farms, leveraging our growing expertise and proprietary technology platform that can help solve a broader array of agricultural challenges,” David Rosenberg, co-founder and CEO, AeroFarms, noted.

AeroFarms signed a collaboration agreement with Silal focusing on improving the genetics and seedling quality of vegetable and fruit varieties to become more resilient and tolerant to extreme growing conditions. The partnership aims to focus on R&D to commercialise new crops like tomatoes and peppers.

Salmeen Alameri, CEO of Silal, said the collaboration marks a milestone in developing an ecosystem for AgriTech innovation towards effective long-term agriculture practices in Abu Dhabi.


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