The Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) announced today it will invest $100 million USD total in four agtech companies to develop next-generation agricultural solutions specifically for farming in desert environments.
ADIO said in a press release sent to The Spoon that it has partnered individually with New Jersey-based AeroFarms, United Arab Emirates-based Madar Farms, Florida-based Responsive Drip Irrigation (RDI), and Abu Dhabi-based RNZ. The $100 million investment covers all four individual deals.
ADIO’s overarching goal is to develop farming solutions that solve both regional and global agricultural challenges, among them minimal water supply, non-arable land, food scarcity, and climate change. ADIO also hopes the new investments will create more jobs for the region.
To that end, AeroFarms, which operates warehouse-sized vertical farms in the U.S., will build out a 8,200-sqm R&D center in Abu Dhabi where it will develop solutions specifically for desert-based agriculture as well as focus on genetic phenotyping and organoleptic research, advanced speed breeding, machine vision and machine learning, robotics, automation and drone technology.
Madar Farms will build out a commercial-scale indoor tomato farm in the KIZAD industrial zone of Abu Dhabi and, like AeroFarms, is also developing its own solutions for growing microgreens while using the region’s natural resources.
And speaking of natural resources, RDI is using the investment to build a water irrigation system it says can improve crop yield in the region, which is comprised mostly of sandy soil and non-arable land.
Finally, RNZ will research and formulate new agri-input solutions such as seeds, fertilizers, and crop-protection products.
The investments in these four companies are part of ADIO’s $272 million AgTech Incentive Programme, which the Abu Dhabi Government’s Ghadan 21 Accelerator Programme established in 2019. “Four global AgTech innovators are joining our mission to turn sand into farmland,” H.E. Dr. Tariq Bin Hendi, Director General of ADIO, said in the press release. “Each of these companies will add to our already established agriculture ecosystem, and benefit from our plentiful land, natural heat, competitive energy prices and access to research universities and skilled talent.”
Agtech in general is a priority for the Abu Dhabi government right now, with indoor farming, precision agriculture, and farming robotics as some of the biggest areas.
The long-term value of high-tech, indoor farming is yet to be truly determined, as there are still plenty of questions around its ability to scale economically while providing adequate amounts of food for a growing global population. Placing vertical farms in a desert environment, where alternative forms of farming are less available, could be a true test of the sector’s usefulness to our overall food system.