A facility called Bustanica has opened its doors to the world’s largest hydroponic farm, backed by an investment of US$40 million (€39.1 million).
The facility is the first vertical farm for Emirates Crop One, a joint venture between Emirates Flight Catering (EKFC), one of the world’s largest catering operations serving more than 100 airlines, and Crop One, an industry leader in technology-driven indoor vertical farming.
Located near Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central, the 330,000sqft facility is geared to produce more than 1,000,000 kilograms of high-quality leafy greens annually, while requiring 95 per cent less water than conventional agriculture. At any point in time, the facility grows in excess of 1m cultivars (plants), which will provide an output of 3,000 kgs per day.
Bustanica is driven by powerful technology – machine learning, artificial intelligence and advanced methods – and a highly specialised in-house team that includes agronomy experts, engineers, horticulturists and plant scientists. A continuous production cycle ensures the produce is super fresh and clean, and grown without pesticides, herbicides, or chemicals.
Passengers on Emirates and other airlines can look forward to forking these delicious leafy greens, including lettuces, arugula, mixed salad greens, and spinach, onboard their flights from July. Bustanica is not just revolutionising salads in the sky – UAE consumers will soon be able to add these greens to their shopping carts at the nearest supermarkets. Bustanica also plans to expand into the production and sale of fruits and vegetables.
HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman and chief executive, Emirates Airline and Group said: “Long-term food security and self-sufficiency are vital to the economic growth of any country, and the UAE is no exception. We’ve specific challenges in our region, given the limitations around arable land and climate. Bustanica ushers in a new era of innovation and investments, which are important steps for sustainable growth and align with our country’s well-defined food and water security strategies.
“Emirates Flight Catering constantly invests in the latest technologies to delight customers, optimise operations, and minimise our environmental footprint. Bustanica helps secure our supply chain, and ensures our customers can enjoy locally sourced, nutritious produce. By bringing production closer to consumption, we’re reducing 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, Crop One said: “After significant planning and construction, and navigating the unforeseen challenges of the pandemic, we’re thrilled to celebrate this tremendous milestone alongside our joint venture partner, Emirates Flight Catering. It’s our mission to cultivate a sustainable future to meet global demand for fresh, local food, and this first large format farm is the manifestation of that commitment. This new facility serves as a model for what’s possible around the globe.”
The farm’s closed-loop system is designed to circulate water through the plants to maximise water usage and efficiency. When the water vaporises, it is recovered and recycled into the system, saving 250m litres of water every year compared to traditional outdoor farming for the same output.
Bustanica will have zero impact on the world’s threatened soil resources, an incredibly reduced reliance on water and year-round harvests unhampered by weather conditions and pests. Consumers buying Bustanica’s greens from supermarkets can eat it straight from the bag – even washing can damage the leaves and introduce contaminants.
Emirates Flight Catering is one of the world’s largest catering operations. Offering airline, events and VIP catering as well as ancillary services including laundry, food production and airport lounge food & beverage, EKFC is a trusted partner for over 100 airline customers, hospitality groups and UAE government entities. Each day, the company’s 11,000 dedicated employees prepare an average of 200,000 meals and handle 210 tonnes of laundry.
Crop One Holdings Inc. (Crop One), headquartered in Massachusetts, USA, is an established and experienced vertical farming leader with continuous commercial operation exceeding 6 years. Leveraging new technological and biological advancements, Crop One has built a scalable, global model to bring fresh, local produce, to previously ungrowable environments.
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