The Abu Dhabi government is backing four vertical farming initiatives to the tune of US$100m.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) state said the investment in controlled-environment ‘farming’ is “dedicated to developing next generation agriculture in arid and desert agriculture”.

The Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) is backing AeroFarms, Madar Farms, RNZ and Responsive Drip Irrigation (RDI) to establish new R&D and production facilities in the country with a goal of “turning sand into farmland, solving complex global agriculture challenges and expanding the profile of local food producers”.

The financial backing follows ADIO launching a targeted incentive programme in 2019 to accelerate the growth of the country’s ag-tech ecosystem. 

US company AeroFarms will focus on next-generation genetic phenotyping and organoleptic research while also tackling the challenges of desert agriculture from a new 8,200 sq m R&D centre. 

The Abu Dhabi government said the centre will be the largest indoor vertical farm of its kind in the world and will employ more than 60 engineers, horticulturists and scientists.

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Madar Farms, a homegrown UAE ag-tech business, will build the world’s “first commercial-scale indoor tomato farm” using only LED lights. The company is also set to scale up the commercialisation of microgreen growing to help provide a consistent and predictable local food supply.

RDI, from Florida in the US, is developing an irrigation system to transform water usage in UAE agriculture and conducting research trials to increase crop yields in sandy soils and non-arable land while locally-based company RNZ will set up an R&D centre to research, formulate and commercialise ‘agri-input’ solutions that are intended to help to grow more with less.

The financial and incentive packages are being dispersed as part of ADIO’s $272m AgTech Incentive Programme, established a year ago under the Abu Dhabi government’s Ghadan 21 Accelerator Programme that is focusing on economic, knowledge and community development across the country.

Dr. Tariq Bin Hendi, director general of ADIO, said: “In line with Abu Dhabi’s long-term vision to grow the sector, ADIO partners with companies that have innovation at the core to help ensure long-term success. 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.” 

Raza Soomar, CEO of RNZ, said: “We are looking forward to exploring new cutting-edge agri-input solutions and passing on the benefits to UAE and regional farms at large.”  

Read just-food’s analysis – Can vertical farming ever become mainstream?