Abu Dhabi AgTech company Pure Harvest Smart Farms has bought a controlling interest in a joint venture with Al Dahra to own and operate a large-scale agriculture facility as the UAE continues to prioritise increasing food security.
The purchase of the Al Ain greenhouse from Munich project development company BayWa for an undisclosed sum will expand Pure Harvest's crops to include aubergines, strawberries and peppers and help further develop its ambitions for zero-carbon growing operations, the company's founder and chief executive Sky Kurtz told The National.
The three parties in the deal plan to collaborate to develop food infrastructure projects in the UAE and in new markets, which will include developing renewable energy projects to power AgTech.
Mariam Al Mheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said the new partnership "will go a long way" in increasing local food production and variety.
“Climate change amplifies the challenges of water scarcity and limited arable land that have a negative impact on agriculture and food security in the UAE," she said. "Therefore, we seek to leverage state-of-the-art AgTech and innovative cultivation methods, such as controlled-environment agriculture, to maximise yields, optimise resource use and reduce emissions with the aim of addressing the critical water-food-energy nexus.
The UAE has been accelerating its support of AgTech companies to reduce reliance on food imports, which make up nearly 90 per cent of food consumed in the country, according to multiple measures. Abu Dhabi has launched a number of initiatives, including $41 million in grants and incentives worth $545m to support expansion.
Pure Harvest is among the first and now largest AgTech companies to grow out of the UAE, raising $280m in funding since it started operations in 2017. It now has four indoor, temperature-controlled farms in the UAE, one in Saudi Arabia and a sixth under development in Kuwait.
This tie-up with Al Dahra aligns it with one of the biggest incumbents in the UAE's food security efforts.
Al Dahra manages and operates land of more than 400,000 acres largely producing cattle feed. The company is also a prominent player in the production and distribution of rice and other grains, operating two rice mills with the capacity to produce 260,000 tonnes and two flour mills with the capacity to produce 550,000 tonnes annually. In addition, Al Dahra owns and operates 300,000 tonnes of strategic grain stocks in the Port of Fujairah.
The company has a large geographic footprint, operating in more than 20 countries and catering to more than 45 markets with a leading position in Asia and the Middle East.
Pure Harvest is seeking to expand into Africa and South-east Asia and wants to reduce its carbon emissions. Its farm in Saudi Arabia is powered by a 30 megawatt solar farm developed by Engie that has reduced energy costs at the plant by 60 per cent, Mr Kurtz said.
"It's a key part of our future strategy that over time, we need to drive down our energy costs and environmental impact, and drive down our cost of capital," he said. "These things will be fundamental toward us being able to democratise access to locally grown, sustainable fresh fruits and vegetables to anyone, at any cost structure. We don't want this to be a solution only for wealthy nations."