Bustanica, a US$40 million, 330,000sqft environmentally controlled farm facility, representing the first vertical farm for Emirates Crop One, has opened in Dubai. Emirates Crop One is a joint venture between Emirates Flight Catering (EKFC) and Crop One, an indoor vertical farming specialist.
Located near Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central, the three-storey facility is designed to produce more than a million kilograms of leafy greens annually, using a process claimed to require 95% less water than conventional agricultural methods (Bustanica claims its process uses 15 litres per 1kg of produce, compared with the 317 litres required per 1kg in traditional outdoor farming methods). At any point in time, the facility grows in excess of one million cultivars (plants), which will provide an output of 3,000kg per day.
The Bustanica facility is driven by technologies including machine learning, artificial intelligence and advanced methods, and by a specialised in-house team that includes agronomy experts, engineers, horticulturists and plant scientists. A unique formula is created for each cultivar, with millions of data points collected each day for maximum growth, which helps the team ensure the crops are supplied with the optimal amount of light, water and plant nutrients.
A continuous hydroponic production cycle ensures the produce is fresh and clean, and grown without pesticides, herbicides, or chemicals. The produce won’t need pre-washing and can be eaten straight away.
Passengers on Emirates and other airline clients of EKFC can now enjoy leafy greens from the facility as part of their inflight meals, including lettuces, arugula (rocket), mixed salad greens, and spinach. Bustanica’s output will also benefit consumers on the ground, as UAE supermarkets will soon stock its greens. Bustanica also plans to expand into the production and sale of fruits and vegetables.
“Long-term food security and self-sufficiency are vital to the economic growth of any country, and the UAE is no exception,” said HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airline and Group. “We have specific challenges in our region, given the limitations around arable land and climate. 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.
“Emirates Flight Catering constantly invests in the latest technologies to delight customers, optimise operations, and minimise our environmental footprint. Bustanica helps secure our 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. Congratulations to the Bustanica team for their remarkable achievements so far and for setting global standards and benchmarks in agronomy.”
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, and saving 1,000MW in the production of water.
Bustanica will have zero impact on the world’s threatened soil resources, an incredibly reduced reliance on water and year-round harvests unhampered by weather conditions and pests. Consumers buying Bustanica’s greens from supermarkets can eat them straight from the bag – even washing can damage the leaves and introduce contaminants.
Craig Ratajczyk, CEO of Crop One added, “It’s our mission to cultivate a sustainable future to meet global demand for fresh, local food, and this first large format farm is the manifestation of that commitment. This new facility serves as a model for what’s possible around the globe.”