Dubai Gets First Vertical Farm

Such a densely populated city is perfect for a vertical farm. Dubai, located in one of the harshest desert climates, suffers from food insecurity in a big way. One could say that Badia Farms’ arrival fills several needs in this desert mecca. Imagine the difference between fantastic food, crafted from imported ingredients, to locally grown and harvested replacements. That reputation for fine dining in Dubai will likely escalate now with the entry of truly fresh ingredients.

Indoor agriculture is definitely a solution to the food crisis in the UAE. Almost every type of food in this country is imported. Food issues escalated last spring when the government banned produce from the closest sources over highly toxic pesticides. So, many important fruits, vegetables, and greens started traveling much farther to reach Dubai. The freshest lettuce was already 5-days old, and the ban aged perishable produce quite a bit. Along with that, prices on the banned items immediately rose 50-70% higher. A vertical farm can make a positive impact on such food insecurity.

Vertical Farm DubaiBadia Farms may be the first vertical farm in Dubai, but it’s not the only hydroponic farm in the UAE. Emirates Hydroponic Farm started up in 2005 on a basically rural piece of land between Abu Dhabi and Dubai. EHF supplies homes and offices with pesticide-free lettuces and some popular herbs from its sprawling outdoor hydroponic operation. But lettuce was still imported from Egypt until last May. So, growers are not meeting everyone’s needs. Dubai and the UAE are in serious need of huge growth in indoor agriculture. No doubt, Badia Farms will quickly find that demand exceeds the capacity of their new vertical farm.

However, the name is plural, so it sounds like they’re perfectly aware of the opportunity in front of them. And it also looks like the team at Badia Farms has a vertical farm¬†growing model that is more sustainable than traditional hydroponics. Owner Omar Al Jundi recruited British agricultural expert Grahame Dunling who brings technology and techniques he perfected at Peninsula Farms in Bahrain. Dunling uses only water and compost to produce a stellar crop from fully sustainable, organic nutrients.

So, not only will Badia Farms vertical farm supply Dubai restaurants with the freshest salads and herbs, they will truly be organic foods. With 40-years of commercial hydroponics experience, you know this technique isn’t going to miss the mark. Dunling grew the Bahrain indoor farm from a $115,000 a year producer to $1,060,000 annually in 2 years flat… without any growing space expansion. That’s amazing. Makes you want the fertilizer recipe, doesn’t it?

I found it interesting that Grahame Dunling is also an advisor on the award-winning Phytoponics project. A super exciting multiponics and aquaculture system designed in the UK that will work anywhere and can easily be operated by anyone. And now I have a sneaking suspicion that this organic hydroponic nutrient made from compost is part of that system’s how-to instructions as well.

Following developments at the new vertical farm in Dubai should prove interesting with Grahame onboard.

Images courtesy of Arabian Business and Hotelier Middle East (respectively).

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Tammy Clayton

Contributing Writer at Garden Culture Magazine

Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home.