BY DR GAIL BARNES
At the beginning of 2016 I wrote an article about indoor or vertical farms being the future of growing produce, describing the progress of Spread in Japan with the creation of the world’s first farm manned entirely by robots capable of harvesting 30,000 heads of lettuce per day.
Fast forward to July 2017, and a new indoor farming investment inflection point was reached with the announcement that the SoftBank Vision Fund was leading a $200 million investment in Silicon Valley indoor farming startup Plenty. Now there is news on Spread too – the expansion of its automated Techno Farm concept to the Middle East, starting with the UAE.
Increased demand for fresh produce
An arid, desert environment, lack of water resources and other geographical factors pose challenges for growing produce in the Middle East, which has led to a reliance on imported goods. This is becoming increasingly expensive as a growing population, and changing and healthier eating habits, are driving an increased demand for vegetables and produce such as lettuce.
Vertical farming solutions, like this one from VertiCrop, could be part of the future of the food industry. ©Valcenteu/Wikimedia
Container farming offers stable supply
“Spread is responding to these challenges with the solutions found in its next-generation vegetable production system, Techno Farm, which was created based on Spread’s ten years of experience in operating a vertical farm and incorporates automation and advanced water recycling,” according to Spread.
“In October 2017, Spread entered into a memorandum of understanding with Madar Farms, a company that has established a container farming business in the UAE, for a strategic partnership for developing the Techno Farm business in the Middle East.
“In June 2017, Spread and Toyo, a global engineering company with abundant knowledge in the construction of industrial-scale facilities, entered into a memorandum of understanding for Techno Farm engineering services overseas.”
The aim of the partnership is to provide a stable supply of safe and high-quality vegetables such as lettuce to the Middle East. According to Spread, construction of the first Techno Farm is planned to begin in 2018 with completion slated for 2019. Moving forward, 20 facilities are planned for construction in the Middle East, starting with the UAE.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019