Dubai farming goes high-tech

It’s not easy to imagine agriculture and fresh produce growing in the UAE given much of it is desert, but there has been a boom in local farming thanks to techniques like hydroponics and vertical farming – and the country’s gastronomy sector is set to benefit. Traditionally, the UAE’s population depended mainly on local fisheries, livestock and wheat. In 2019 its food trade value (imports, exports, and re-exports) was $24.7 billion, with the country importing a whopping 80% to 90% of the food it consumes.

More recently, the country is adopting hydroponics and aeroponics (cultivating plants without soil) plus vertical and smart farming as part of its National Food Security Strategy 2051, which it launched in 2018. One of the many goals of the strategy is to implement resilient agricultural practices to increase production. The ongoing pandemic, which led to supply chain disruptions, has made this strategy even more important as it became apparent that the UAE’s reliance on imports is unsustainable.

The UAE has more than 177 farms that use modern agricultural technologies and hydroponics, and over 100 entities that implement organic farming. Mohamed Aissaoui, a fifth generation farmer from France who left his engineering career to pursue farming, is the owner of Myfarm Dubai, a self-sustaining eco-farm. “We are here in the desert with limited resources, water is precious and we use technology to control the irrigation system and give water only where a plant is growing,” he told Business Recorder.

“The success at Myfarm for me is not about what we grow in the desert even if we are proud of that. In Dubai we have a big demand to connect with nature, find the real taste of fruits and vegetables,” he said, adding that he was not prepared for how many people were interested in his work.

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