As more and more people crowd onto this little planet, current farming techniques don’t look efficient enough to keep us all well fed. To make better use of space, farms of the future may move into high-rise buildings. Now, the world’s biggest vertical farm is set to be built – like so many other “world’s biggest” things – in Dubai, where it will grow salads and leafy greens for Emirates Airlines passengers.
As a partnership between Emirates Flight Catering and Silicon Valley-startup Crop One, the new facility is expected to cover 130,000 sq ft (12,000 sqm). At its peak, the companies say it will produce as much food as 900 acres (364 ha) of conventional farmland, with a yield of three tons (2,700 kg) every day.
Emirates and Crop One’s new vertical farm seems to be quite a bit bigger than previous title-holders, such as Farmed Here’s 90,000-sq ft (8,400 sqm) facility in Chicago and Aerofarms’ 69,000-sq ft (6,400 sqm) one in New Jersey.
Not only does vertical farming save huge amounts of land, but it reportedly uses just one percent of the water of traditional agriculture, and because of the tightly-controlled environment, no pesticides or herbicides are required. In this case, because the facility is opening up right next door to Dubai’s Al Maktoum International Airport, transport costs and emissions will also be reduced, and food will be served to customers just hours after harvest.
It’s not just about being the biggest though. One of the other key advantages of vertical farming is that it can be set up almost anywhere, including on ships, trailers, the inner city, and even in space.
Construction on the Dubai facility is due to begin in November this year, and the first in-flight meals grown there will be served in December 2019.