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Emirates flight catering opens world’s largest vertical farm

19 Jul 2022 by Tom Otley
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Emirates flight catering has opened the world’s largest vertical farm. Located near Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central, the 330,000 sqft facility will produce more than 1 million kilograms of high-quality leafy greens including lettuces, arugula, mixed salad greens, and spinach annually, while requiring 95 per cent less water than conventional agriculture.

The hydroponic farm, is the first vertical farm for Emirates Crop One, a joint venture between Emirates Flight Catering (EKFC), one of the world’s largest catering operations serving more than 100 airlines, and Crop One, an industry leader in technology-driven indoor vertical farming.

Emirates says that Bustanica will annually save in excess of 250 million litres of water. 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.

The farm will produce over 1 million kgs of produce that are free of pesticides, herbicides and chemicals. At any point in time, the facility will grow in excess of 1 million cultivars (plants) which will provide an output of 3,000 kgs per day, with the first plants being served on board Emirates flights from Dubai from this month. UAE consumers will also soon be buy the greens in supermarkets. The farm also plans to expand into the production and sale of fruits and vegetables.

Bustanica uses “machine learning, artificial intelligence and advanced methods – and a highly specialised in-house team that includes agronomy experts, engineers, horticulturists and plant scientists.”

The farm has a continuous production cycle and all the produce is grown without pesticides, herbicides, or chemicals. Consumers buying Bustanica’s greens from supermarkets can eat it straight from the bag – even washing can damage the leaves and introduce contaminants.

HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive, Emirates Airline and Group said: “Long-term food security and self-sufficiency are vital to the economic growth of any country, and the UAE is no exception. We’ve 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.

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“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.”

Craig Ratajczyk, Chief Executive Officer, Crop One said: “After significant planning and construction, and navigating the unforeseen challenges of the pandemic, we’re thrilled to celebrate this tremendous milestone alongside our joint venture partner, Emirates Flight Catering. 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.”

Emirates Flight Catering is one of the world’s largest catering operations and has over 100 airline customers, hospitality groups and UAE government entities. Each day, the company’s 11,000 dedicated employees prepare an average of 200,000 meals.

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