2nd December 2022
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Controlled Environment Agriculture EMEA

Controlled Environment Agriculture in the UAE Needs a Better Framework To Fully Deploy

Emirates Hydroponic Farm controlled environment agriculture in the UAE

Based in the suburbs of Abu Dhabi, Emirates Hydroponic Farm has vowed since its creation to produce eco-friendly and high-quality produce to supply the local market. With about ⅔ of its clientele base in Dubai and ⅓ in Abu Dhabi, the company supplies local hypermarkets and hotels with fresh greens. The company works with outdoor hydroponics and in controlled environment agriculture facilities.

“Today, to satisfy the demand we are looking to further our development by increasing the sizes of our current hydroponic greenhouse and leveraging a wealth of technology to initiate the production of a variety of salads and European aromatics.” Comments Amjad Al Akhal, General Manager of Emirates Hydroponic Farm.

In recent months, the UAE (as well as the region) has seen an important development with important investments made in new technologies. Pure Harvest Smart Farms USD 180M funding round, and Red Sea Farms’ USD 18M are among the latest examples. Nonetheless, Mr. Al Akhal regrets that this development is made with very little legislation regarding the use of chemical products as well as the relative ease with which operators can divert the legislation. 

Emirates Hydroponic Farm
Inside Emirates Hydroponic Farms’ Greenhouse

“For the growth of Controlled Environment Agriculture or any other segments, the country will need to put a clearer and tighter regulatory framework to avoid the use of harmful pesticides or other chemical fertilizers” he mentions. “This is why we decided to invest in manufacturing our own organic fertilizers and emphasize the R&D relative to the performance of hydroponics” 

Another restraint to the development of Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) is the intense competition with produce imported from cheaper countries. Indeed, the UAE imports produce from countries such as Iran, India, or Africa where prices are ridiculously cheap and retailed at levels where Indoor Ag companies cannot compete given the operational expenses they have. 

To further exacerbate the pressure, the lack of high-quality seeds and nutrients in the market decreases the overall performance of these facilities as they are highly dependent on those. 

“What is missing in the UAE is the lack of state-of-the-art research facilities to develop high-quality seeds, fertilizers, and plugs to fully capture all the benefits CEA can have for the country’s food security.” Comments Amjad Al Akhal “Investments made are a good sign for the future of the industry but it would be best to invest in equipment suppliers to develop in the country”

In 2021, Aerofarms announced the construction of a 90,000 sqft research facility in Abu Dhabi to further that will host a wealth of engineers, horticulturists, and scientists and will have laboratories for organoleptic research and precision phenotyping, phytochemical analysis, advanced speed breeding, as well as next-generation machine vision, machine learning, robotics, and automation.

This interview was conducted by Jean-Luc Achard, CEO & Chairman of Sepec Consults SAS.

Image provided by Emirates Hydroponic Farm

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