Exclusive Tech Food Tech Valley set to triple food production in Dubai By Andy Sambidge March 21, 2023 Food Tech Valley Food Tech Valley on the edge of Dubai will bring together food production and distribution and is expected to produce 300 new varieties of crops Only 5% of UAE land is currently suitable for arable farming Project unites food and agriculture ecosystem in one place UAE plans for half of its food to be produced locally by 2051 The development of Food Tech Valley just outside Dubai represents a milestone in the UAE’s efforts to improve food security. The Emirates currently imports 90 percent of its food and only 5 percent of its land is suitable for arable production. Food Tech Valley, a partnership between the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and Wasl Properties, is set to change this when the first zones of the project launch over 2024 and 2025. Companies are starting to lease land to build production facilities such as indoor vertical farms, and food production and logistics units enhancing local and regional distribution capability. Bright outlook but no more ‘growth at all costs’ for startups The vertical farms stacking up across the UAE AeroFarms: the US business growing up (and up) in the Gulf Max Grenard, corporate food and beverage director of Wasl Hospitality & Leisure, said that Food Tech Valley would triple food production, in line with the UAE’s plan for half the food consumed in the Emirates to be produced locally by 2051, compared to 20 percent in 2022. “We wanted to make sure the development is contributing to UAE food production as soon as possible [and] ensuring that sustainable food production will have started as the rest of the masterplan is being built,” he said. “The UAE is full of resources that need development and attention, and I am positive that in no time, the UAE will no longer import all 90 percent of the resources but rather a large portion of it will be grown locally.” Grenard said the project aims to unite the food and agriculture ecosystem in one place and let food manufacturing companies produce in Dubai, giving restaurants, stores and homes access to locally grown food. SuppliedMax Grenard, corporate food and beverage director of Wasl Hospitality & Leisure. Picture: Supplied Food Tech Valley, which will span 18 million sq ft, is being built in the Warsan area between two main highways. It is expected to produce 300 new varieties of crops and generate more than 14,000 new jobs. It will be home to four main clusters – the food production zone, logistics zone, business park, and the innovation and research and development centre and academy. This ecosystem aims to empower farmers, business owners and entrepreneurs to address food security challenges and pioneer sustainable food production that will reimagine how the world produces and consumes food. Vertical farms were first introduced to Dubai in 2016 with the launch of Badia Farms’ 8,500 sq ft warehouse, which uses hydroponic farming technology to grow micro-greens and herbs. In Abu Dhabi, ADQ, an investment and holding company, announced on Wednesday the operational phase of its AgTech Park ecosystem with the launch of a vertical farming project in partnership with Zero, a technology company headquartered in Italy. The Zero project is the first of several controlled environment agricultural concepts that will be housed in the AgTech Park and will aim to enhance indoor farming locally, as well as explore and push the boundaries of desert-climate farming in the UAE. The farming facility is situated in Khalifa Economic Zones Abu Dhabi, with additional sites exploring different technologies to be launched in Al Ain Industrial City within the next year. At full scale, the 200-hectare AgTech Park will target production volumes of over 40 kilotons of fresh fruits and vegetables annually, which would account for up to 6 percent of the UAE’s total consumption. Last month, agricultural technology firm RedSea launched greenhouse facilities in the UAE capital which aim to “supercharge” wider adoption of technologies in the UAE for the benefit of local growers. Ryan Lefers, CEO of RedSea, said: “There is a clear path for local growers to use this technology to generate higher production yields, operate more sustainably and be more profitable. “Our technology is a solution born in the deserts of the Middle East and already being delivered in hot climates around the world.” Badia Farms was the first hydroponic farm in Dubai when it launched in 2016 More than 100 companies, 30-plus investors and 10 government agencies were involved in the UAE agricultural tech industry last year, according to Deep Knowledge Analytics. About two-thirds of these companies have fewer than 50 employees. And the latest figures show that the UAE closed 22 agtech-related investment deals in 2021 with a total value of $600 million, ranking 15th globally. About 66 percent of investment into the agtech sector comes from UAE-based investors, while other significant investments have come from the US, Switzerland and the UK.