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How cutting-edge technology promises greater food security in the Middle East

Food insecurity in the Middle East and North Africa is a growing problem. Even in more affluent countries in the region, access to water for food production is increasingly competitive as populations continue to rise, and climate change and biodiversity loss reduce the productivity of agricultural land. In the UAE, for example, 80% of the land area is already desert, and collectively the emirates already need to import 80-90% of their food. With the years to come expected to bring higher temperatures, lower rainfall, a rise in sea levels and greater risk of extreme weather events, it’s clear that alternative approaches to food production are required.

In Abu Dhabi, a new research facility, Aerofarms AgX, recently opened to showcase cutting-edge techniques in vertical farming. Vertical farming offers a solution to challenges brought about by climate change as the growing process is conducted entirely indoors using LED light. There are three main systems of vertical farming: hydroponics, which submerges plant roots into liquid nutrient solutions; aquaponics, which integrates aquatic organisms to aid plant growth; and aeroponics, where plants are suspended in the air and irrigated with mist. AgX, employs the latter, which uses 99% less water than traditional farming.

AgX methods do not require the use of chemicals or pesticides, and the approach removes the need for long transportation. And once facilities like this one are fully powered by renewable energy, their carbon footprint will be vastly reduced, offering tangible hope of a new paradigm in food production.

With thanks to: David Rosenberg, Co-founder and CEO, AeroFarms Fadi Sbaiti, General Manager, AeroFarms Dr. Aftab Alam, Director of R&D, AeroFarms Stacy Kimmel, Senior Vice President of R&D, AeroFarms

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