With more than 80% of food being imported into the UAE, Urban Fresh Farms, Dubai’s newest indoor vertical hydroponic farm from ZipGrow™, is doing its part to contribute to a more sustainable local food system.
A 1,000 square foot ZipGrow™ ZipFarm™ was recently installed in Urban Fresh Farm’s facility in the Industrial centre of Dubai and will soon be producing pesticide free fresh herbs and leafy greens for the local market. Urban Fresh Farms is a new company, founded by people who always had an interest in sustainable agriculture but thought they did not have the knowledge or financial backing to get into the industry.
“We, as a group, always found vertical farming really interesting and knew there would be a strong demand for it in the Dubai area”, said Scott Naude, co-founder of Urban Fresh Farms. “We were hesitant to jump in at first, but the combination of ZipGrow’s technology and ongoing training, the increasing demand for higher quality and fresh produce, and the Middle East’s booming tech sector all aligned perfectly for us to begin this venture.”
As with the rest of the world, COVID-19’s impact on the local supply chain has also impacted the Dubai area, with food selections being limited in local grocery stores during the peak of lockdowns.
“Around the world we are hearing from all our growers that food retailers are actively looking for local food goods to supply”, explains Eric Lang, President of ZipGrow Inc. “We are also hearing from government’s around the world, including in the UAE, who want to actively seek out ways to reduce supply chain lengths to ensure a more consistent and high-quality food stream.”
Hydroponic growing, as an industry, is still recently new to the Middle East region. The UAE government is a leader in the Middle East region, and in 2018 launched a National Food Security Strategy 2051, led by the Minister of State for Food and Water Security, Her Excellency Mariam bint Mohammed Al Mheiri. This strategy aims to increase local food production in the UAE, while simultaneously maximizing the use of modern technologies to bring fresh and sustainable food to the region.
“There’s also a demand for healthy eating options and this has given rise to a number of excellent meal plan services and all-in-one meal ingredient boxes which in turn is creating a need for the best, freshest vegetables to be readily available” adds Naude. “We’re planning on starting out growing primarily herbs such as basil, parsley and coriander, and hope to have our first crop available in December.”
Urban Fresh Farm and ZipGrow Inc. plan to use this new facility to showcase this vertical farming technology to the UAE and wider Middle East region. Naude adds; “We’re excited about our ongoing partnership with ZipGrow Inc. There is so much educational content available, as well as a fantastic team. So even for someone like myself who is new to all of this, ZipGrow provides all the tools needed to get growing.”