Dubai hotel opens on-site eco-friendly vertical farm

A hotel in Dubai has taken a big step forward in the sustainable sourcing of ingredients in its in-house restaurants – by installing a vertical hydroponic farm on site.

Having locally grown produce reduces its carbon footprint and transportation costs for the buyer.

“We do this for two reasons. A chef will always want the freshest and best ingredients possible, and the need to think about sustainability is immense,” said the property’s executive chef, Tobias Pfister.

“We all need to reduce our carbon footprint. The food is literally grown here and then served on the tables.

“There is no transport or logistics involved. I can actually go to the farm in the morning and cut the lettuce and have it in a salad bowl for lunch.

In vertical farming, crops are grown in layers on top of each other, while hydroponics is the process of growing plants in nutrient-rich liquid instead of soil.

A sustainable strategy

The farm, approximately 40 square meters, sits inside a sealed container on the property’s land at Dubai Marina.

Plants including lettuce, kale, basil, rosemary and thyme will be grown year round.

“Sustainability is becoming an important part of the conversation for every hospitality company,” Pfister said.

“It’s becoming an important trend for every chef.”

He also said food safety had been thrust into the spotlight by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have all seen how supply chains have been interrupted. All industries were affected, not just hospitality, and it was important to learn from that,” he said.

“Companies in this region import a large proportion of their products, so we understood the importance of offering alternatives to help locate these markets.”

The Ritz-Carlton’s vertical farm was created in collaboration with hydroponics specialist Green Container Advanced Farming.

The method is often said to be a solution to the long-standing problem of finding areas to farm in rapidly urbanizing areas.

“It has already been established in many cities around the world; it’s not new,” Mr. Pfister said.

“When cities continue to grow, that means space becomes limited and conventional farming methods become unrealistic. This is clearly a way forward.”

Vertical farming on the rise

The American vertical agricultural company AeroFarms inaugurated a research and development center in the capital last summer.

The 8,200 square meter facility is part of a $150 million plan by the Abu Dhabi Investment Office to put advanced technology at the forefront of efforts to improve food safety.

Around the same time, Sokovo, an agricultural technology company, announced that it was building a 92,000 square meter vertical farm in Dubai Industrial City.

“The importance of this launch is twofold; first of all we support the uae in its journey towards greater sustainability, while allowing our customers to eat locally grown products, which of course is more environmentally friendly, but also superior in quality , taste and freshness,” said Jeroen Elmendorp, Managing Director. of the Ritz-Carlton, Dubai.

“Going forward, we aim to drive responsible operations, which means putting sustainability at the heart of everything we do.

“I am confident that launching our own hydroponic setup will provide our customers with an incredible dining experience.”

Updated: May 20, 2022, 10:34 a.m.

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