Inside the mushroom growing farm in the Abu Dhabi desert

There is a part of Abu Dhabi where the vast desert is broken up by date palms, irrigated fields, and rows of greenhouses. These are farms that yield everything from dates to honey to plump aubergines. But behind the tall, white gates of “Below Farm” in Al Rahba, something even more special is happening.

Here, in a cluster of white buildings, a 10-person team grows six varieties of premium mushrooms, such as pink oyster, shiitake, and lion’s mane. Forget the button mushroom factories of years gone by with their black plastic. Below Farm is pioneering a new type of sustainable agriculture in the desert that requires little water and no arable land.

These mushrooms are on sale at supermarkets such as Spinneys and at online delivery companies such as Kibsons and will soon be on plates at Emirates Palace. “We talked to five-star hotels and executive chefs,” said Liliana Slowinska, co-founder of Below Farm. “They were wary of putting such mushrooms on the menu in case of next week they wouldn’t be available. But we are here to stay.”

Below Farm was established in 2021. Its first harvest was in May, and it now plans to ramp up production using its unique way of growing fungi. The mushrooms grow on special blocks that are made from local waste wood and palm frond cuttings that are mixed with grains such as wheat bran.

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