Dubai-based Food Tech Valley signed an agreement at COP28 with ReFarm to construct a 900,000 square feet “GigaFarm” that will recycle upto 50,000 tonnes of food waste and grow two billion plants every year.
Capable of growing more than three million kilos of produce annually, the site will support the UAE’s move towards decarbonising food production, replacing one per cent of the country’s fresh produce imports.
Construction is due to begin in mid-2024, with the site expected to be fully operational by 2026.
Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade, who was at the signing, said: “The UAE’s economic growth strategy has placed a strong emphasis on diversification and sustainability, which includes developing new knowledge and capabilities in high-impact industries.
“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 Dubai’s Food Tech Valley, is a master development launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, and being led by Dubai property developer, Wasl.
Hesham Abdulla Al Qassim, group CEO, Wasl said: “The UAE has the ambition and vision to lead the conversation on food security and take the actions necessary to achieve resilient communities. 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 which is set to be part of Food Tech Valley which will have a significant impact on the UAE’s food security, maximising the use of precious resources and decarbonising the food supply chain. We look forward to working with our partners to make it a success.”
Food Tech’s role in the circular model
In a global first, six complementary technologies will be collocated on the Dubai Food Tech Valley site as part of a closed-loop circular waste-to-value system, establishing a self-contained ecosystem designed to maximise resource efficiency and prevent any waste going to landfill.
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 per cent of ammonia sulphate from wastewater for use in plant fertilisers, and produce organic biodegradable polymers designed to gradually release water and nutrients to crops in arid regions.
ReFarm, established in the UAE by SSK Enterprise and Christof Global Impact (CGI), as a group of companies focuses on projects with circularity and clean technologies. The farming company said it chose vertical farming technology developed by infrastructure supplier Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS) and is set to start construction in mid-2024.
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.
He added, “Additionally, no mains or groundwater connection will be required to grow fresh produce since water will be recovered as a by-product from the organic-waste-to-value technology and fed into the vertical farm which is up to 98 per cent more water efficient than growing in a field.”
ReFarm and IGS announced this partnership from their demonstration facility built in Dubai in the backdrop 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 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.”