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UAE: New farm to be constructed in Dubai growing '2 billion plants yearly'

Food Tech Valley has signed an agreement at COP28 with ReFarmTM to start construction on a 900,000 sq. ft. game-changing "GigaFarm." The innovative waste-to-value farm will be capable of recycling more than 50,000 tonnes of food waste and growing two billion plants each year. Construction is due to begin in mid-2024, with the site expected to be fully operational by 2026.

David Farquhar, CEO of IGS, said: "With a growing area of more than 87,000 square meters, it will be very large! We are delighted to have been selected by ReFarmTM as their vertical farm technology partner for this venture as they work to restore the balance and ensure that the UAE is driving an innovative approach to combatting food insecurity. This project is a very exciting step forward for IGS, and we are confident this innovative model has applications in many geographies across the globe."

HE Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi was appointed the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade, said: ""Rethinking our food production systems is a clear priority, and the decision of ReFarm to launch a facility in Dubai's Food Tech Valley is a significant step forwards for the development of a technologically advanced, low-carbon agricultural sector. ReFarm's mission to make farming autonomous, self-sufficient, and sustainable is very much in line with our goal to use innovative techniques to meet our food needs."

The signing

ReFarmTM was established in the UAE by SSK Enterprise and Christof Global Impact (CGI) as a group of companies with a focus on projects with circularity and clean technologies. The brand chose vertical farming technology developed by infrastructure supplier Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS) and is set to start construction in mid-2024 at Dubai's Food Tech Valley, a master development launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and being led by major Dubai property developer, Wasl. ReFarmTM has engaged its lead bank to arrange support from UK Export Finance within the UK Government's Department for Business & Trade.

Food waste will be recycled on-site by black soldier fly larvae, with by-products including organic compost used in traditional agricultural practices, animal feed for replacing unsustainable fish meal and soy oil, and water for use in the vertical farming towers. The technologies on site will also recover up to 90% of ammonia sulfate from wastewater for use in plant fertilizers and produce organic biodegradable polymers designed to gradually release water and nutrients to crops in arid regions.

HE Hesham Abdulla Al Qassim, Group CEO, Wasl, said: "This project reflects our proactive, action-oriented approach to the monumental challenge of food insecurity facing the world. This is one of many transformative projects that is set to be part of Food Tech Valley, which will have a significant impact on the UAE's food security, maximizing the use of precious resources and decarbonizing the food supply chain. We look forward to working with our partners to make it a success."

Saeed Al Marri, Chairman at SSK Enterprises, commented: "Our circular approach contributes to wider ambitions of food security and landscape regeneration, with the vertical farming towers capable of growing more than 250 varieties of plants, seedlings, and saplings, from salads, herbs, and leafy greens, through to fruiting crops and tree seedlings including native species such as Ghaf, Moringa, and even Mangroves. Additionally, no mains or groundwater connection will be required to grow fresh produce since water will be recovered."

Oliver Christof, CEO at Christof Global Impact (CGI), commented: "What has been achieved over the past 36 months on the ground in the UAE is a game-changer for the sustainable food industry. A key factor for success has been the open mindset of the UAE leadership to future technologies and a strong focus on circularity, which allowed us to bring together various groups, including local stakeholders, alongside our technologies, making the project appealing to local as well as institutional investors while saving massive amounts of CO2."

UK Minister of State for Climate, Environment, and Energy, Lord Benyon, said: "Agri-tech and innovation are key to driving a resilient, prosperous, and sustainable agriculture sector that puts food on tables around the world while minimizing waste. It is excellent to see a British company deploying vertical farming technology on this vast scale. I hope this UK-UAE partnership will continue to build our shared ambitions for global food security."

Oliver Christian, His Majesty's Trade Commissioner for the Middle East and Pakistan and HM Consul General to Dubai, said: "The UK Government is proud to support companies like IGS, which brings together technological innovation and sustainability towards achieving decarbonized food security. IGS' substantial contribution to the ReFarmTM project will bring significant high value exports from the UK, expected to enable an application for financial support to be made to the UK government's export credit agency UK Export Finance (UKEF). UKEF's mission is to advance prosperity by ensuring no viable UK export fails for lack of finance or insurance, doing that sustainably and at no net cost to the taxpayer."

ReFarmTM and IGS announced this partnership from their demonstration facility built in Dubai in celebration of COP28. The site features industrial replicas of five of the six complementary technologies that will be brought together at the Dubai Food Tech Valley, and fresh produce grown in the vertical farming Growth Towers has been provided to the cloud kitchen business, Kitopi.

Mohamad Ballout, CEO of Kitopi, highlighted the significance of this sustainable partnership, stating: "As the first food company to join this ground-breaking initiative, Kitopi is proud to be part of a strong collaboration that underscores our dedication to pioneering sustainable solutions in the food industry. The 'GigaFarm' project represents a key milestone in our commitment to driving positive change and environmental impact."

For more information:
Food Tech Valley

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