Wednesday, April 17, 2024

This big farm in the desert might make 3 million kilograms of food

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In 2022, Dubai showed off the world’s biggest vertical farm. It’s a huge indoor farm at Dubai’s Al Maktoum International Airport. Instead of growing plants in fields, they grow them in trays stacked up high inside the building. This farm uses less water and soil and produces more than one million kilograms of fresh leafy greens every year.

But soon, there will be an even bigger one. In another part of the city, they’re building something called Food Tech Valley. It’s going to have a gigantic farm called GigaFarm, which will be 12 meters tall and cover an area of 83,612 square meters.

The GigaFarm is not just bigger; it works in a different way too. Oliver Christof, the CEO of Christof Global Impact, the company behind GigaFarm, says it’s special because it uses new technologies to deal with waste, like food scraps and sewage, and turns them into useful stuff for farming.

Regular farming creates a lot of greenhouse gases that harm the environment. But GigaFarm wants to change that. They plan to use clever technology to recycle waste and use less fertilizer, which should make farming more eco-friendly. They aim to produce up to three million kilograms of leafy greens, herbs, and veggies every year and replace some of the food the UAE imports.

GigaFarm’s farming system is made by a company called IGS. They use tall towers filled with plants instead of parking cars. Each tower carefully controls how much water and nutrients the plants get, using special lights and sensors to make sure they grow well.

Vertical farming, like what GigaFarm does, has many advantages over regular farming. It uses less water, grows crops faster, and can be done indoors without worrying about weather. But setting up these farms is expensive, and they need a lot of electricity to run.

Despite the challenges, GigaFarm aims to be sustainable both financially and environmentally. They plan to power the farm using energy made from burning waste and use water from insects to feed the plants. They also want to make useful products from the waste, like animal feed and compost.

GigaFarm hopes to help solve food problems by providing fresh produce to local farms and reducing the UAE’s reliance on imports. This could be a game-changer not just for Dubai but for other cities too.

Climate change is making it harder to grow food, so countries like the UAE are investing in new farming methods like vertical farming to secure their food supply. This is also creating new business opportunities and support from governments for companies like ReFarm.

Other countries in the region, like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are also interested in vertical farming to improve food security. Experts predict that by 2030, this sector could be worth billions of dollars in the Middle East and Africa.

Although it will take some time for vertical farming to become widespread, projects like GigaFarm are a step in the right direction. The GigaFarm project is set to begin later this year and should be up and running by 2026.

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