In a region with plenty of sun but little water, farming is rarely an easy option, so it’s little surprise that Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates import around 85% of all the food they consume, according to a 2021 report by Dubai-based Alpen Capital.
Technology might be about to alleviate that problem though. While growing crops in outdoor fields might be a challenge in most of the region, the idea of vertical farming looks like it might provide a partial solution. The system involves growing crops indoors in trays layered on top of each other, using techniques such as aeroponics or hydroponics.
The buildings that house these farms can be huge. What is said to be the world’s largest vertical hydroponic farm opened in Dubai last year on a 330,000 square foot site, equivalent to almost six football pitches. It is able to produce around 1 million kilograms a year of lettuce, spinach, rocket and other crops.