In the previous year, there has been a large series of investments going into the Middle East with the UAE standing out. Throughout the pandemic, the country has seen what a fragile food system it has and is therefore very welcoming towards local produce solutions that are resilient.
“It’s going to be our most advanced research and development farm so far,” says Roger Buelow, Chief Technology Officer at AeroFarms. “This leap forward with Abu Dhabi is similar to AeroFarms’ New Jersey model in terms of scale at 90,000 square feet, but it’s completely dedicated for R&D. This R&D farm will have AeroFarms’ proprietary next-generation farming technology and have an even greater level of control in heating, humidity and more advanced lighting.
There are many transportation costs built into the products imported, Roger claims. However, this cannot be compared to the production vertical farms would be delivering. Imported produce spent a long time in transport, which lowers their shelf life as well. Therefore, vertical farms will add great value to the UAE food supply.
Open to food resilient solutions
“As we’re making steps into different markets, this is a great place for us to make advancements there. Our partner – Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO)
in the UAE, Abu Dhabi specifically, has the right idea in terms of bringing the latest technology into the country. It will be helpful in the region for sure.” Roger says that it was a smart play for the UAE to have grabbed that position as others in other regions have been moving in the same direction. He adds: “When training up the next generation of growers on AeroFarms in the country, it will turn into this course set of capabilities that will help throughout the UAE and the region.”
Roger adds, “We’ve chosen the UAE as it’s a relatively concentrated country in terms of population density, but even more importantly in terms of forward-thinking on their side of wanting to get a competitive edge in certain technologies. They’ve thought a lot about what’s important to them in terms of food security and a nutrition point of view, which made them very much ready to move forward here.”
Adding up the benefits
“Going to a different climate is always a different story, however, the different applications have to do with what’s happening outside of the building. The great thing about AeroFarms’ technique, says Roger, it that it’s applicable to any climate. AeroFarms has developed its technology to be flexible. Therefore it’s making sure that technology is lined up with the global expansion. “We make sure that the decisions we make will make sense on whatever scale we’re pulling through on the farm, with scalability on our mind. Our growth systems are able to grow many different fruits and vegetables, working ourselves into particular markets.
It’s great to see what vertical farming can bring in terms of resource use efficiency, says Roger, with water on foremost. “The breakthrough we’ll be making at this farm is that we’ll be able to grow plants and ingredients that are very valuable in the region. Hopefully, the country doesn’t have to think of export anymore and takes advantage of the benefits vertical farms can offer.
“Our productivity is head and shoulders above existing technology as we’re focused on high-quality produce. We’re recognizing that there are going to be many other farms in the area. We’re grateful to be a part of the playbook in a market that’s ready for many vertical farms,” Roger claims.
Roger notes that the company has great partnerships with universities whereas notes that they’re in a great position to be learning. “However, I think there’s still a lot to learn.” When it comes to learning how the market is set up for bringing both components or internal, and in-country metalworking. There’s a lot of details involved, whereas the UAE is relatively different to the US in terms of understanding how business gets done in-country.