As the global population grows, water is becoming an ever more precious resource. Agriculture accounts for nearly 70% of all water use – and also wastes much of it through inefficiencies. However, a new project in Dubai is pointing the way towards a future in which crops can be grown in a far more sustainable way.
Located close to Al Maktoum International Airport is the world’s largest vertical farm. Named Bustanica, which means “your garden”, the 330,000 sq ft facility is a joint venture between Emirates Flight Catering, which provides meals for more than 100 airlines, and Crop One, a specialist in vertical farming. Opened in July, 2022, it is geared to produce more than one million kilos of leafy greens annually, while requiring 95% less water than conventional farming.
Bustanica’s secret lies in powerful new technology. The farm’s closed loop system circulates water through the plants, and when the water vaporises, it is recovered and recycled into the system, saving 250 million litres of water a year compared to traditional farming for the same output. A highly specialised team of agronomists, engineers, horticulturists and plant scientists use artificial intelligence and machine learning to power a production cycle that ensures fresh, clean produce grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides or chemicals. The lettuce, arugula, mixed greens and spinach can be eaten straight from the bag without washing.
“LONG-TERM FOOD SECURITY AND SELF-SUFFICIENCY ARE VITAL TO THE ECONOMIC GROWTH OF ANY COUNTRY, AND THE UAE IS NO EXCEPTION. BUSTANICA HELPS SECURE OUR SUPPLY CHAIN, AND ENSURES OUR CUSTOMERS CAN ENJOY LOCALLY SOURCED, NUTRITIOUS PRODUCE.”
HH SHEIKH AHMED BIN SAEED AL MAKTOUM
CHAIRMAN & CHIEF EXECUTIVE, EMIRATES AIRLINE AND GROUP
Passengers on Emirates and other airlines can enjoy Bustanica’s produce, and recently consumers in the UAE have been able to add these greens to their shopping trolleys at local supermarkets. There are also plans to expand into growing fruit and vegetables.
At any point in time, the facility grows more than a million plants, providing an output of 3,000kg a day. But all this produce needs to be stored somewhere.
Back in June, 2021, Güntner was approached by the refrigeration contractor to provide an optimised cooling system for a cold store and pack house at the farm, where the various salad items could be kept at a temperature between 1°C and 4°C before being dispatched – no mean feat in a place where summer temperatures regularly reach 40°C.
“We already had a very good relationship with the contractor that had been developed over a decade and a half,” says Syed Luqman Faraz, Sales Manager for Güntner in the Middle East. “Güntner is also a well-recognised brand in the Emirates Group, and a few of their catering facilities already housed our units. A good track record of previously installed units can play a huge role when it comes to a customer’s confidence in a trustworthy brand.”
Nevertheless, it was a challenge. As Luqman points out, “This is one of the biggest catering services in the world, which supplies one of the most widely connected airlines in the world, as well as local supermarkets.”
The cooling solution used Güntner Cubic COMPACT Air Coolers, Güntner Cubic VARIO Air Coolers, and Güntner Vertical COMPACT Condensers.When HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai, visited the facility, he expressed his pleasure at the use of technology that is accelerating self-sufficiency in fresh food produce and supporting sustainability in the Emirate.
“THE PROJECT WAS VERY AMBITIOUS. THESE DAYS EVERYTHING THAT DUBAI DOES IS NOT ONLY THE BIGGEST AND BEST, BUT ALSO THE MOST ECOLOGICALLY RESPONSIBLE. THIS WAS ONE SUCH PROJECT, AND WE ARE PROUD TO HAVE WON THE REFRIGERATION AIR COOLER ORDER AND CARRIED IT OUT SO SUCCESSFULLY.”
SYED LUQMAN FARAZ
AREA SALES MANAGER, GÜNTNER