Hydroponic vertical farming brings fresh produce to non-arable regions

In many areas of the world, environmental conditions are not conducive to traditional farming. Ensuring food security depends on continuous agricultural innovation, which has been part of the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) mission since its founding, given the country’s arid conditions and little water. Smart Acres is one of the many companies exploring new sustainable agricultural innovation—its focus is on hydroponic vertical farming. “Living in a region with a lot of non-arable land and in arid conditions, we're not able to produce a lot of the crops needed for consumption for the nation. The UAE actually imports 90% of the food for consumption,” says Aphisith Phongsavanh, lead project manager of Smart Acres.

Smart Acres is an indoor vertical hydroponic farm.The Smart Acres farm consists of eight shipping containers equipped with modules that use internet of things technology to monitor for humidity, temperature, and the nutrients inside the plants. It’s all in the name of creating an environment that’s optimized for plant growth and high nutritional value. “When we come in, we have air showers built into our facilities. We make sure that our controlled environment is as sterile as possible to protect the plants from external factors,” says Phongsavanh.

Having fine-tuned the process for leafy greens, the team is preparing to expand its crop. First up: strawberries, a local favorite. “There’s no leading vertical farm in the UAE right now that is commercializing strawberries. So, in fact, we would love to be the first one to test it and get it right,” says Phongsavanh.

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