The opening of what is claimed to be the GCC region's first commercial indoor vertical farm in Kuwait aims to ease the country’s dependence on imports of leafy greens and herbs.
The joint venture between vertical farming specialist &ever Middle East and investment firm Nox Management has been supported by German engineering companies SAP and Viessmann.
The new farm will be able to locally grow up to 550kg of 250 varieties of greens and herbs every day using Dryponics technology in approximately 3,000sq m growing space.
Products will be available in all leading retailers and cooperatives under the brand name &ever Kuwait, the firms said.
Vertical farms are designed to grow crops indoors in tightly controlled environments where temperature and climatic conditions are carefully monitored and external weather conditions are irrelevant. Though they are energy intensive, they remove the cost of transporting food across the globe and are particularly attractive for regions such as the Gulf, where it is impractical to grow many popular vegetables and other food crops.
The company said its operating system could monitor, analyse, and adjust plant health, airflow, light, carbon dioxide levels, humidity and temperature in real time.
SAP also said the farm would produce high-quality and sustainable crops indoors using 90% less water compared to traditional farming, 60% less fertiliser and zero pesticides.
The facility’s climatised rooms are 40% more energy efficient than rival indoor vertical farming systems, the firms said.
Using the systems means batches of crops can be individually watered, fed and lit using LED lights. “Using a sustainable ‘farm to fork’ model, the technology is able to preserve the plants’ nutritional value until the produce reaches the customer,” SAP said.
Faisal AlMeshal, director of strategy and business development at Nox Management, said: “Our (joint venture) with &ever and the partnership with SAP and Viessmann on this indoor farm is enabling the local farming supply chain to save on costs and logistics, to minimise waste, and to make a better choice for the planet.
“Previously, Kuwait’s restaurants imported all of our greens and herbs, mainly from Europe.”
David Farquhar, chief executive of UK-based technology developer Intelligent Growth Solutions, told the Financial Times that the coronavirus pandemic has led to a spike in interest in vertical farms.
The technology means produce can be grown year-round with minimal labour costs.
Colin Campbell, chief executive of the James Hutton Institute, a research organisation that promotes vertical farming, said the crisis had raised worries about food safety and the risks of relying on extended supply chains to provide food.