Israel-based ag tech company Vertical Field announced today that it has signed an agreement with Emirates Smart Solutions & Technologies (ESST), which develops high-tech agricultural projects around the Persian Gulf, to pilot vertical farms in the United Arab Emirates. The first farm will be installed as part of a research, development, and training center in Umm Al Quwain.
Vertical Field grows leafy greens vertically inside shipping containers that are equipped with technology like sensors that can monitor climate control, lighting, and irrigation levels inside the farm. Data on those elements and others can be fed back to the growers via Vertical Field’s proprietary app, which allows for remote monitoring and management of crops.
Many companies nowadays take a similar approach to controlled-environment agriculture these days, with Freight Farms, Thrive, and Brick Street Farms being a few notable examples. Where Vertical Field differs from these companies is its choice to use geoponics — soil-based growing — rather than the more common hydroponic method. Instead of plants growing in towers through which water is circulated, Vertical Field farms are made up of what the company calls “living walls” (see image above). The company claims this geoponic method means lower initial and operating costs as well as more crop variety.
Whether with geoponics or hydroponics, controlled ag is an obvious concept to try out in the Persian Gulf region, which endures high temperatures, sparse rainfall, high winds, and other extreme weather conditions around the year. These conditions limit the amount of traditional agriculture production that can happen, which makes controlled-environment container farming an attractive alternative. Another notable development in this part of the world is the Abu Dhabi Investment Office’s recent multimillion-dollar investment in a few agtech companies to innovate on the concept farming in this particular climate.
The Vertical Fields pilot project with ESST will be the first step towards full-scale deployment of the farms across the UAE. Through the partnership, the Vertical Field farm will run as a pilot project that will provide produce to both commercial establishments and the private sector. One of the goals of the project is to determine which crops are most suitable for the local market.
Eventually, the partnership is expected to expand and include farm deployments around the rest of the Gulf states.