Dubai airline Emirates has said its catering division will co-invest in a $40m join venture to build the world’s largest vertical farming facility.
The partnership between Emirates Flight Catering and US-based Crop One Holdings will see the construction of a 130,000sqft vertical farm facility near Dubai’s southern airport Al Maktoum International.
It will have a production output equivalent to 900 acres of farmland and harvest 3 US tonnes (2,700 kg) of “high-quality”, herbicide and pesticide-free leafy greens daily when at full production, according to the announcement.
Emirates said the project would produce crops using 99 per cent less water than outdoor fields and its proximity to the airport would cut carbon emissions for transport.
“This investment to build and operate the world’s largest vertical farming facility aligns with the UAE’s drive for more agricultural self-sufficiency, a vision which began with the late HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s founding father,” said Emirates Group chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum.
“The introduction of ground-breaking technology at the facility also enhances Dubai’s position as a global innovation hub.”
Construction is scheduled to start in November and take around one year.
The first products will be delivered to Emirates Flight Catering customers, including 105 airlines and 25 airport lounges, in December 2019.
Crop One Holdings CEO Sonia Lo said the company was chosen after a 10-month search by Emirates.
“Our proven business model has demonstrated profitable commercial production longer than any other major vertical farmer,” she said.
Despite its seemingly inhospitable climate for farming, the UAE has a growing agricultural market.
New technologies that are less water intensive are being tested by several start-ups including Pure Harvest to grow crops including tomatoes, cucumbers and strawberries.
This comes as the government seeks to improve the country’s food security by reducing its reliance on imports from a current rate of 80-90 per cent.