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DUBAI: Emirates Flight Catering and Crop One Holdings have officially opened what they describe as the world’s largest vertical farm.

Located close to Dubai’s Al-Maktoum International Airport, the facility, called Bustanica, is the first vertical farm operated by Emirates Crop One, a joint venture between the two companies. It is backed by an investment of $40 million.

Emirates Flight Catering, which supplies more than 100 airlines, hotel groups and Emirati government agencies, is one of the largest catering operations in the world. Crop One Holdings, headquartered in the US state of Massachusetts, is considered a leader in the technology-driven indoor vertical farming industry.

Bustanica, a 330,000 square foot hydroponic farm, was designed to produce over one million kilograms of high-quality leafy greens each year, using 95% less water than conventional farming methods. At any one time, more than one million plants will be growing in the facility, with a daily production of 3,000 kg.

It is powered by state-of-the-art technology, including machine learning, artificial intelligence and other advanced methods, overseen by a highly specialized in-house team of experts in agronomy (the science of soil management and plant production), engineers, horticulturists and plant scientists. The continuous production cycle ensures that produce is extremely fresh and clean, and grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals.

Passengers on flights operated by Emirates and many other airlines can expect to receive farm-grown leafy greens, including lettuce, arugula and spinach, from this month. Additionally, shoppers in the UAE will be able to add the farm’s greens to their baskets at local supermarkets. Bustanica also plans to expand into the production and sale of other vegetables and fruits.

“Food security and long-term self-sufficiency are essential for the economic growth of any country and the UAE is no exception,” said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, Chairman and CEO of Emirates Airline. and Group.

“We have specific challenges in our region, given the limitations related to arable land and climate. Bustanica ushers in a new era of innovation and investments, which are important milestones for sustainable growth and align with our country’s well-defined food and water security strategies.

“Emirates Flight Catering is constantly investing in the latest technology to delight customers, optimize operations and minimize our environmental footprint. Bustanica helps secure our supply chain and ensures that our customers can enjoy locally sourced, nutritious products.

He continued: “By bringing production closer to consumption, we shorten the food journey from farm to fork. Congratulations to the Bustanica team for their remarkable achievements so far and for setting global standards and benchmarks in agronomy.

Craig Ratajczyk, CEO of Crop One, said: “After significant planning and construction, and after meeting the unforeseen challenges of the pandemic, we are delighted to celebrate this tremendous milestone alongside our joint venture partner, Emirates Flight Catering. .

“Our mission is to cultivate a sustainable future to meet the global demand for fresh, local food, and this first large format farm is a manifestation of that commitment. This new facility serves as a model for what is possible worldwide.

The farm’s closed-loop irrigation system is designed to circulate water through the plants to maximize utilization efficiency. As the water evaporates, it is captured and recycled through the system, saving an estimated 250 million liters each year compared to traditional outdoor farming methods that produce the same yield.

In addition to greatly reduced water use, Bustanica will have no impact on threatened soil resources and will produce crops year-round unhindered by weather or pests.

Greens grown in the facility are so clean and pure that consumers buying them from supermarkets will be able to safely eat them straight from the bag, growers say, because even washing them can damage the leaves and introduce bacteria. contaminants.