Smart Acres aims to improve food security in the UAE


May 14, 2020 | By Rupkatha Bhowmick

The newest addition to the UAE’s hydroponic vertical farming industry, Smart Acres aims to improve food security in the Emirates and develop the country’s farming capabilities. Smart Acres is getting ready to launch in the third quarter of 2020. Currently in the proof-of-concept stage, Smart Acres is located in Abu Dhabi on the Armed Forces Officers Club.

Smart Acres is keen to provide a solution to potential socio-economic threats, such as pandemics and climate limitations the Middle East. The vertical farming company developed by a team of experts is set to be a one-of-a-kind agriculture system, which will produce some of the highest yields of crops within the UAE vertical farming industry. In addition, Smart Acres seeks to introduce a new future for producing clean foods, while allowing B2B and B2C sectors to source produces locally.

Also read: Madar Farms pioneering a new way of living

In collaboration with n.thing, a South Korean vertical farming technology company, Smart Acres has been able to design farm modules using an IoT-based technology system to grow and monitor their produce, a system that not only consumes less resources but generates ultra-high quality crops.

We spoke to Sean Lee, director of Smart Acres about the brand’s launch readiness and future plans.

Are you on track for a third-quarter 2020 launch?

Lee: At the moment, we are operating as expected and have surprisingly experienced a large demand for our greens during the current crisis. However, we are not shortening our timeline for a market launch. Due to recent events, we have actually been donating large amounts of our greens to interested parties and F&B groups that assemble wonderful meal kits for frontline essential teams. Rather than speed up the process of launch, we have been utilising this time to enhance our Global Threat and Crisis action plan that involves internal and external measures for operating during times of crisis.

Since hydroponic vertical farming is on the rise, how will Smart Acres differentiate itself?

Lee: Most vertical farms in the region focus on micro-greens and baby greens as they are faster to grow and harvest, but we are pushing the envelope and striving towards cultivating fully-matured crops at industry-standard yields. We are focusing on developing larger quality greens in order to provide a cleaner and more sustainable alternative to mature crops exported from other countries.

How will Smart Acre make local food sourcing sustainable?

Lee: Our R&D and technology team is constantly assessing and modifying processes to adapt to the UAE climate; and as such, adjusting the usage of resources as well. Our in-house developed IoT (internet of things) system closely monitors the growth of our crops and makes changes to parameters so that resources are not wasted. Our long-term goals include developing micro-distance relationships with major food retailers where our modular farms are built in close proximity to retailer warehouses or distribution centres for very short transportation distances and increased freshness. Thus, reducing our carbon footprint. In addition, we plan on strengthening the sustainability and security of the MENA potato industry by developing home-grown potato seeds.

What kind of partnerships – with supermarkets/hypermarkets and restaurants/hotels – are you building?

Lee: Our B2B strategy includes a select group of hotel and restaurant brands that our team has existing relationships with. As for supermarkets and hypermarkets, we’re initially growing our business model through the F&B industry and will move towards supermarkets and hypermarkets in the next phase.

Will Smart Acre follow a farm-to-fork model by launching an online ordering platform?

Lee: We are definitely planning to launch our own e-commerce platform to enable a wider audience to experience our offerings. And our plans include more than the conventional lettuce box!

 

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