UAE: Smart Acres to open R&D lab for local produce

Abu Dhabi vertical farming start-up Smart Acres is looking to raise at least Dh20 million to fund a research and development centre to produce a local variety of potato as agriculture technology gathers pace in the UAE. “The future is green. The Hope probe has headed to Mars, why shouldn’t the UAE be the first to put a container farm on the planet?” Abdulla Al Kaabi, founder and chief executive, told The National.

The entrepreneur is part of a team of twelve working in partnership with a Korean AgTech platform called N.thing, to adapt the technology to the harsh arid climate of the Emirates on an Abu Dhabi farm gifted to him two years ago by his father.

Smart Acres has designed vertical farms in shipping containers using the IoT-based technology system that monitors water, carbon dioxide and nutrient levels. The system sends a push notification to one of the team's iPhones or iPads if levels need to be adjusted, but it allows the process to happen largely unmonitored. The farm is empty most of the time, Mr Al Kaabi said. The growing process also consumes up to 90 per cent less water than traditional farming methods and grows premium and cost-competitive lettuces.  

Food security and innovation in agriculture is a priority of the Abu Dhabi government, which has earmarked Dh1 billion for an agri-tech incentive programme as part of the government’s Ghadan 21 accelerator initiative. In April, Abu Dhabi Investment Office (Adio) invested $100 million (Dh367m) to bring four agriculture technology companies to the emirate as part of government efforts to attract high-skilled talent and cutting-edge research. The country’s 24,000 farms are set to benefit if new technology can be applied to drive efficiencies in crop yield and water usage. 

Read more at The National (Kelsey Warner)

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