Temperatures that range between 15-24°C, wet and nutritive soil, and dark, cool conditions aren't necessarily what springs to mind when describing the landscapes of the UAE. But those conditions are an absolute must when cultivating mushrooms. Despite this, Below Farm, an agritech company located in the capital city of Abu Dhabi, has found a way to grow mushrooms in the UAE all year round using local raw materials.

"Established in 2021, with the first mushrooms harvested from the farm in Abu Dhabi in 2022, we have worked hard to localize the cultivation of mushrooms for arid climates," says Liliana Slowinska, co-founder and Business Development Director of Below Farm. "This requires a complex controlled environment system, which has been optimized for the hot, dry desert environment. But we have taken it one step further, growing on substrate materials -such as palm leaves from date farms- that are locally available."

"The UAE's focus on food security has created an enabling environment for startups, but there was no one operating in the mushroom space," says Weir, who is also Below Farm's Managing Director. "We saw the opportunity, and taking inspiration from our founders' home country of Poland, where mushroom foraging is a core part of the heritage, we set off on our journey to grow mushrooms in the desert."

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