Season 4, Post 45: Farms in the desert

Dubai, a place which receives less than 30 days of rain a year, may not seem the most obvious place for the future of farming. However, it is precisely because…

Season 4, Post 45: Farms in the desert

Dubai, a place which receives less than 30 days of rain a year, may not seem the most obvious place for the future of farming. However, it is precisely because of its climate – when your author was there last week, the temperature reached 35 degrees – that Dubai stands at the forefront of farming innovation. Owing to the limited arable land and water in the region, the United Arab Emirates currently imports c90% of its food. When it comes to solutions, the only way (for the region, and others too) is therefore up.

Emirates Crop One (which operates under the brand name Bustanica) opened its doors this summer close to Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central. It is the largest vertical farm in the world. Although your author was sadly unable to visit on this occasion, Bustanica is an impressive sight, covering 330,000 square feet (or 3,065 square metres). The facility aims to harvest around 1000 tonnes of produce a year. Bustanica – which translates roughly as “your garden” – will begin with spinach, lettuce and kale, but there are plans to expand the range of fruits and vegetables produced with time.

We have noted for some time that the world needs to embrace agtech in order to help match food supply requirements with growing food demands. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine also reinforced the need for countries to think increasingly strategically about their food sources, as we discussed earlier this year. Bustanica is therefore both a logical and necessary innovation. From an environmental perspective, there is also a lot to like. Given its temperature-controlled environment, the facility apparently uses 95% less water than is required to grow comparable crops in a field. Furthermore, no pesticides or fertilisers are used. Although the plant is currently powered by conventional energy sources, the intention is for Bustanica to move to solar over time.

Expect to see more vertical farms springing up around the world. The US already boasts over 2000, Japan has 200 and China over 80 (all data here). As with other industries, falling technology costs and increasing scale benefits are seeing the size and sophistication of such farms improve each year. The global market for vertical farming was worth $3.1bn in 2021, but with some consultants forecasting a 20%+ CAGR over the next five years, the market could reach $10bn in value by the middle of the decade.

14 November 2022​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
The above does not constitute investment advice and is the sole opinion of the author at the time of publication. Past performance is no guide to future performance and the value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise.

Alex Gunz, Fund Manager


The document is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute investment advice or any recommendation to buy, or sell or otherwise transact in any investments. The document is not intended to be construed as investment research. The contents of this document are based upon sources of information which Heptagon Capital LLP believes to be reliable. However, except to the extent required by applicable law or regulations, no guarantee, warranty or representation (express or implied) is given as to the accuracy or completeness of this document or its contents and, Heptagon Capital LLP, its affiliate companies and its members, officers, employees, agents and advisors do not accept any liability or responsibility in respect of the information or any views expressed herein. Opinions expressed whether in general or in both on the performance of individual investments and in a wider economic context represent the views of the contributor at the time of preparation. Where this document provides forward-looking statements which are based on relevant reports, current opinions, expectations and projections, actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements. All opinions and estimates included in the document are subject to change without notice and Heptagon Capital LLP is under no obligation to update or revise information contained in the document. Furthermore, Heptagon Capital LLP disclaims any liability for any loss, damage, costs or expenses (including direct, indirect, special and consequential) howsoever arising which any person may suffer or incur as a result of viewing or utilising any information included in this document. 

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