Welcome to ‘7 Ways To Pay It Forward’, 7 questions to individuals who are making a difference in the community. Each day we will feature a different initiative with details of how you too can get involved.
As always please do share with us any other initiatives you may know of and we can add them to our growing list which will be published on the seventh day.
Be safe, give back & stay connected!
Hemant Julka – COO, Veggitech
Food security is just one of the many discussed topics during COVID and with the UAE importing nearly 90% of its food there is a lot happening in terms of home grown food with many technological innovations enabling this to happen. Veggitech (Vegetation Technology) is just one of the companies who are doing this and now has thousands of indoor vertical farms growing fruit and vegetables locally. They are paying it forward by teaming up with The Noodle House and providing over 10,000kgs of farm fresh, pesticide free food to those front-line care workers in need. Help for Heroes is registered through Shurooq and the Sharjah Charity Association.
1/ Please can you tell me about your background, your business, when you started and why?
VeggiTech is an agro tech company. Its mission to disrupt the agricultural industry by introducing technology to address the key challenges within the GCC: temperature, soil and water.
VeggiTech was founded in 2016 and the idea was to introduce LED assisted Hydroponics and Protected Hydroponics to the region. With 85% to 90% of our food imported and 5 months of very little conventional agriculture possible in the country, this was an amazing opportunity to impact the social, economic and technical landscape of the country.
We build and operate farms for our customers; we now have over 35 acres of farms with over 150 green houses and 45,000 sqft of Indoor vertical farms including Organic certified produce, so it has been a great year!
2/ Why did you decide to start the initiative, what has the response been like so far?
The initiative we started during the COVID period was a result of like-minded organizations coming together across the UAE. In Dubai we worked with Noodle House to provide Farm fresh vegetables to our front line health workers across the city. What started with home deliveries from the Noodle House kitchens culminated with entire Hospitals being served with these packages. VeggiTech provided 500 kgs of farm fresh vegetables daily to Noodle House where they would be sanitized to the highest levels before being dispatched to our Heroes. In Sharjah we worked with Shurooq and Sharjah Charity Association to identify the people who were in need during these tough times. Vegetable bags were packed and delivered to their homes in a contactless manner by the Shurooq volunteers. We provided over 6,200 Kgs of vegetables over the month of March. Both the initiatives are on going and we do feel privileged to be able to support our country, our people and our front line heroes in these tough times.
The messages of gratitude from our health care workers and their blessings are our biggest treasure!
3/ Please can you explain how it works i.e. give details about the mechanics, who can get involved, what you need, what is the aim of the initiative?
Fresh produce from the farms is harvested on a daily basis and sent across to pre-designated collection points. In the case of Noodle House, the health care workers just direct message the Noodle House facebook page and the team co-ordinates the entire sequencing and delivery of these packages to our heroes. In Sharjah the Sharjah Charity Association maintains a list of people who are in need of food during these tough times. This list is shared with Shurooq volunteers who then collate the requirements and work with the Packhouse team in VeggiTech. Farm fresh produce is kept ready in bags for the volunteers to come and pick these in the morning to be dispatched in a contactless manner. The main aim of the initiative was to support our people in these tough times and drive awareness about the local growers.
4/ What is the expected outcome, do you have a figure/goal/timeframe in mind?
Expected outcome – bring positivity and cheer to the residents of UAE; specifically show our gratitude to our frontline health care workers and underline the role of the local farmer in the quest for food security in our country. We have already provided over 10,000 kgs of farm fresh pesticide free vegetables and are looking to support as many people as we can.
5/ What has been the biggest challenge for you during this time, as an individual and as a business owner?
Personally, the support from the various agencies during this period has been outstanding. From Dubai Police facilitating the distribution of packets to the quarantined Dubai ambulance health care workers in the locality of Al Naif (I was moved to tears to see their care and compassion first hand #salute #respect); to Volunteers from organization like Noodle House picking up the care packages and distributing them to the health care workers was phenomenal. It clearly showed that when we come together, we can do some amazing good for the society.
As a business owner of course these are tough times and we are filled with uncertainties on the extent of the lockdowns and the impact on the overall economy etc.; however we don’t obsess too much on the unknowns – we are certain that we can contribute to growing food in the best possible way for the people in our country and all of us in VeggiTech are focusing on that.
6/ We talk about BC (life before COVID), what do you think life will be like AC (after COVID) personally and professionally?
Personally, I am readying myself to face some “unknowns”; there are no precedents for the times to come and hence staying nimble and agile will be key; ensure the family and team are safe health-wise and financially, this remains the priority.
Professionally, supercharge the pace on implementing agro tech projects that are in the pipeline given that food security is the key in these tough times.
7/ Can you tell me about some of the things you do in your daily life that are sustainable, what more can you do and has COVID made you think more sustainably?
Staying home and staying safe is probably the most important element of my current life; I would like to look for more options to serve our frontline workers and support them. The next 6 to 12 months will be tough for all and the closer we come in our intent to support and help each other the easier this journey will be for us all. I welcome people to reach out to us.
Disclaimer: By promoting these initiatives Goumbook is not in any way profiting nor raising funds for any organisation, individual or company.
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