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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 October 2018

Dubai government agrees on deal to start up 12 vertical farms in the city

The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment will allocate 7,600 square metres of land to the growing industry

A new wave of vertical farms, using similar techniques to this one in New Jersey, America, will soon be springing up in Dubai. REUTERS.    
A new wave of vertical farms, using similar techniques to this one in New Jersey, America, will soon be springing up in Dubai. REUTERS.    

The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MoCCAE) has agreed a deal to establish 12 vertical farms in the city.

The ministry will allocate 7,600 square metres of its land in the city to encouraging the growth of the thriving industry after reaching an agreement with Shalimar Biotech Industries.

The company will develop infrastructure facilities, such as a water desalination plant, climate-control air conditioning, LED lighting, and automatic irrigation systems for the dozen farms.

Vertical farming is viewed as the new frontier of agriculture, with proponents saying it makes the best use of land and water for high-value crop production.

The UAE is fast becoming a hot spot for the phenomenon. Only last month it was revealed that the catering arm of Emirates Airline has partnered with a Californian company, Crop One, to develop what has been described as the world's largest vertical farm.

Vertical farming is based on the use of hydroponics, in which plants are grown using nutrient media instead of soil, a technique first used in the UAE almost half a century ago and now well established locally through a number of commercial farms.

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The absence of soil – with hydroponics, plants grow in media such as rock wool, a fibrous substance produced from molten rock – eliminates soil-borne diseases.

Temperature can be controlled by air conditioning, allowing year-round production even in the UAE, or evaporative cooling.

Sultan Alwan, Assistant Under-Secretary for the Regions Sector at MoCCAE, and CP Ramachandran, Founder and CEO of Shalimar Biotech Industries, signed the agreement at MoCCAE headquarters.

Speaking about the partnership, Alwan said, "The agreement leverages synergies between MOCCAE and the private sector to encourage innovation in agriculture, with the aim of enhancing the UAE’s food security and diversity.

"As vertical farming has a significantly smaller carbon footprint than traditional farming, ventures such as this one align with the country’s drive to improve its agricultural self-sufficiency."

The five-year cooperation agreement seeks to promote new agricultural technologies; provide an educational centre for local farmers, students and researchers; reduce agricultural waste, the risk of infection and the spread of agricultural pests; achieve year-round crop production, and mitigate thermal emissions from agricultural processes.