UAE: Pilot farms supply over 500kg of berries to local retailers for the same price as open fields each week

“We’re importing the strawberry seedlings, transplanting them into our system, whereas after two months, they’re fruiting. At this point, we’re supplying over 450-500kg of strawberries per week with our two Dubai farms. The strawberry sales are a complementary income, and ultimately, we’re dealers, so that’s why we’ve started to cultivate this space ourselves. It’s just to show that the technique works, what’s behind it, and utilize this as a pilot farm,” says Harshit Kothari, Project manager at Aerovertica. 

Aerovertica is an Indian agtech that supplies rotating growing towers and has two pilot farms in Dubai. The strawberry farm we visited has a total cultivation area of 200m2, whereas another farm based in Dubai as well counts a total cultivation area of 1600m2, which cultivates strawberries and edible flowers.

As the company received government funding, they were able to set up the NGT project, which has been up and running ever since the 1st of November 2021. 

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Harshit Kothari

Local sales of strawberries
Inside the 200m2 venue, Aerovertica houses 20.000 strawberry plants inside 180 towers. “In a horizontal setup, this would be about 10,000 strawberry plants in the same area. This definitely gives us an advantage over other players.” According to the normal standards, the towers are supplied at a height of 3,2 meters, and on top of each other, they’ll be about 7,8 meters, fully integrated into the system. 

The company currently supplies its berries to local supermarkets in Dubai, of which they have no aim to expand any further. Sold in smaller-sized packages of 200 grams, the average pricing is 5-8 AED each, which is about $1,50-2,25. 

Pollination is done manually and with the help of bumblebees. If some plants don’t respond too well to the system for some reason, they’re taken out and replaced. Supplied by LEDs, the plants receive about 12 hours of light a day. According to Harshit, it helps to cut costs since the towers are rotating, plus it delivers a fair amount of light to the plants, which helps them to grow as naturally as possible. 

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Supply in any size
For Aerovertica, it’s not an issue to supply the product can be supplied at any size, but once the customer has a farm size in mind, they will think along with the entire process, so the most efficient sizing and distancing can be calculated to get the most optimum yield. 

Although they’re not ultimately focusing on selling their products, the team is gathering multiple data, the fallbacks, and improvements on the system. This can all be (hopefully) prevented and distributed to clients that are starting a new project. 

Besides that, Aerovertica is not just selling off its product and then leaving it up to the customer. “We really want to be close by the customer, monitoring and guiding them anywhere we can. If an issue might occur, we can always jump in from our main office in Dubai and shut off the system. As well as advise them on certain things remotely as we can always keep a close eye on what’s going on in their farm.” 

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Is energy a worry?
At this point, energy costs aren’t a big worry for the company as they pay about 4000-5000 euros on energy a month, which is very much to oversee when selling your products to regular off-takers. In future projects, Harshit notes that they would like to look into renewable energy so they can tap into cheaper options. 

For more information:
Harshit Kothari, Project manager
LIU 4, Dubai Silicon Oasis
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Tel.: +971 568 387 804 

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