Israel’s Vertical Field inks deal to deploy its farming system in UAE

Ag-tech company to launch pilot in Emirates ahead of wider roll-out; its vertical farming system could lessen food insecurity in water-scarce Gulf state

Luke Tress is a video journalist and tech reporter for the Times of Israel

Produce grown using Israeli start up Vertical Field's farming system. (Courtesy/Vertical Field)
Produce grown using Israeli start up Vertical Field's farming system. (Courtesy/Vertical Field)

Vertical Field, a startup that has developed a vertical farming system, has signed an accord with an Emirati company to deploy its products to the United Arab Emirates.

The Israeli ag-tech firm signed the agreement with Emirates Smart Solutions & Technologies, Vertical Field said in a statement on Wednesday.

Vertical Field will set up pilot vertical farms in the Emirate of Umm Al Quwain ahead of a wider roll-out in the UAE, the company said. The pilot will aim to determine which crops are best for the local market and will be supported and overseen by Vertical Field’s Israeli agronomists.

The firm expects the project to expand into a multimillion-dollar venture that will include distributing Vertical Field’s products to additional Gulf states, the company said.

Roughly 80 percent of agricultural food products in the UAE is imported from abroad, amounting to $10 billion in trade in 2018. The increasing cost of transporting food and concerns over food security played a part in the new partnership, Vertical Field said.

“Arid desert regions face many challenges surrounding the production of high-quality agricultural produce at low prices. With the help of various agricultural technologies and new developments, we believe that we can successfully align the demands of the market with competitive prices without compromising quality,” Guy Elitzur, Vertical Field’s CEO, said in a statement.

Maher Makalde, the CEO of Emirates Smart Solutions & Technologies, said, “We are excited for the opportunity to partner with Vertical Field and bring advanced Israeli vertical technology that enables the growth of produce in a controlled and predictable way, overcoming harsh outdoor climate conditions.

“Our goal is to establish food security that is independent of imports and to develop a high-quality agricultural infrastructure that reaches the retail market,” Makalde said.

An illustration of vegetables growing on walls by Vertical Field. (Courtesy)

Vertical Field’s soil-based installations are made up of separate blocks of plants that can be rearranged at will to produce locally sourced vegetables. This green wall of vegetation is suitable for growing vegetables in stores, offices and apartment buildings, or anywhere in urban areas, which have little space but many walls.

The firm, formerly called Green Wall Israel, said that products grown with its farming method are pesticide-free, generate less waste than conventional agriculture and utilize 90% less water, growing in precise quantities in a controlled environment with shorter growing cycles.

Produce in its containers can grow 365 days a year and is free of the limitations usually imposed by seasons, weather, climate and location.

The farms are modular, expandable and moveable, with fully automated crop management and a sterile environment that requires significantly less human contact. The crops that are currently offered include lettuce, basil, parsley, kale, mint and others, and are competitively priced, the firm said in a statement.

Israel and the oil-rich UAE signed a US-brokered normalization agreement in September, opening the way for business and tourism between the two countries, after years of covert trade exceeding $1 billion annually by some estimates.

The UAE, a federation of seven desert sheikdoms dependent on petrodollars, has been keen to cash in on the influx of Israeli investment and travel, particularly after the pandemic diminished demand for oil and hammered international tourism.

Earlier this month, Vertical Field signed an agreement with Moderntrendo S.R.O, an agricultural distributor in Ukraine, to deploy its plant installations in supermarket chains nationwide.

In December Vertical Field also signed a “multi-million dollar” agreement with Israeli discount supermarket chain Rami Levy for the installation of its vertical farming containers on the stores’ premises.

Vertical Field is based in Ra’anana in central Israel and was founded in 2006.

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