With little water, scorching temperatures, and not much arable land, the UAE currently imports 80% of its food. Can it go local?
In an industrial park built off a highway in the arid land between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, a sprawling new indoor farm will soon grow tomatoes under LED lights in a climate-controlled warehouse near a plastic production facility and other factories.
The farm, the first in the world to commercially grow tomatoes solely under artificial light, is one part of a push to transform food production in the United Arab Emirates, where 80% of food is imported. The government realizes that to be resilient, it will need to find new ways to grow food in a desert climate with little rain and temperatures that regularly stay above 100 degrees.
In a new investment announced today, the Abu Dhabi Investment Office, a central government hub supporting businesses, is putting $100 million into four agtech companies, including Madar Farms, the startup building the indoor tomato farm; Aerofarms, a New Jersey-based vertical farming company that will build a massive new R&D center; RDI, a startup developing a new irrigation system that makes it possible to grow plants in sandy soil; and RNZ, a startup that develops fertilizers that make it possible to grow more food with fewer resources. The investments are the first in a larger $272 million program to support agtech.
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