Emirates Flight Catering (EKFC) and joint venture partner, Crop One, have opened the world’s largest hydroponic vertical farm, backed by an investment of US$40m.
Located near Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central, the 330,000sqft facility is named Bustanica (meaning garden or orchard in Arabic) and is designed to produce more than 1,000,000 kilograms of high-quality leafy greens annually, while requiring 95% less water than conventional agriculture. The facility grows in excess of 1m plants at a time, providing 3,000 kgs of greens a day.
Crop One is an industry leader in technology-driven indoor vertical farming and Bustanica is driven by machine learning, artificial intelligence and a specialist in-house team that includes agronomy experts, engineers, horticulturists and plant scientists. A continuous production cycle ensures the produce is always fresh and clean, and is grown without pesticides, herbicides, or chemicals.
The leafy greens, including lettuces, arugula, mixed salad greens, and spinach, will be used for onboard catering from July. Bustanica will also supply retail markets and 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: “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. It helps Emirates Flight Catering secure its 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. Bustanica is setting global standards and benchmarks in agronomy.”
Craig Ratajczyk, CEO at Crop One, said: “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, reduced reliance on water and year-round harvests unhampered by weather conditions and pests.