The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is situated in the scorching Arabian desert, which makes growing food outdoors a nightmare. The UAE currently imports 80 percent of its food because of this, but the government is pushing hard to localize food through the power of indoor farming.
In an industrial park built off a highway in the arid land between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, a sprawling new indoor farm will soon grow tomatoes under LED lights in a climate-controlled warehouse near a plastic production facility and other factories. The farm, the first in the world to commercially grow tomatoes solely under artificial light, is one part of a push to transform food production in the UAE.
Another big part came this week when the Abu Dhabi Investment Office, a central government hub supporting businesses, announced it will put $100 million into four agtech companies, including Madar Farms, the startup building the indoor tomato farm; Aerofarms, a New Jersey-based vertical farming company that will build a massive new R&D center; RDI, a startup developing a new irrigation system that makes it possible to grow plants in sandy soil; and RNZ, a startup that develops fertilizers that make it possible to grow more food with fewer resources.
The investments are the first in a larger $272 million program to support agtech and bring new indoor farming technologies to the UAE. The indoor farming industry is still nascent, but with a new wave of investment coming from the emirates, the industry could really take off.