A new UAE fresh food producer, The Farmhouse, has launched its inaugural line of locally grown, pesticide-free vegetables. The produce will be sold in supermarkets across the Emirates, giving residents a new option for high-quality vegetables at a competitive price. The Farmhouse also announced its first major sales contract, partnering with leading UAE food business Barakat Group to supply multiple product varieties.
“This is a proud moment for the UAE,” said Hisham Malak, Founding Partner of The Farmhouse. “It’s one step closer to achieving our food security objectives. We’ll be growing and harvesting all year round. Even during summer, we’ll be providing supermarkets with stable supply and consumers with quality vegetables.”
All of The Farmhouse’s crops are being grown in the controlled environment of its 430,000-square-foot (4 ha/10 acres) greenhouse hydroponic farm in Ras Al Khaimah. The first phase of the facility was completed and produced its first harvest in March, with crop production ramping up this month. When all crops are in harvest, The Farmhouse will supply over 25 tonnes per week of best-in-class vegetables for local consumers. A second phase expansion to over 1 million square feet (10 ha/25 acres) will commence later in 2018.
Hydroponic technology uses micro-irrigation to deliver nutrient-enriched water to plants. This technique is increasingly popular across Europe, North America and parts of Asia but, to date, adoption in the Middle East has lagged. The Farmhouse has successfully adapted this technology to the region’s uniquely challenging weather to grow and harvest crops all year round in the UAE.
“Our hydroponic ecosystem is the key to The Farmhouse,” said Operations Director Esteban Barrachina, a third-generation hydroponic farmer. “It allows us to control all aspects of our greenhouse environment, so we never need to use pesticides or chemicals. We are able to closely monitor growth of our vegetables and harvest at the peak of their freshness.”
The result is pesticide-free vegetables which are picked, packaged and delivered to UAE supermarkets in less than 24 hours. Short transit times ensure vegetables are ultra-fresh when they hit store shelves, without the high price tag of imported products that spend days in transit. In addition, The Farmhouse’s methods are more sustainable than traditional farming, using fully enclosed growbags and an advanced water runoff recovery system, resulting in 80% less water usage and significantlyhigher crop yields.
The Farmhouse offers customers a “Grow to Suit” model, growing precise volumes required, providing options for various size and shape specifications, and delivering orders to a pre-agreed schedule. This strategy has quickly won support, with the signing this month of the company’s first major supply deal with the Barakat Group. Barakat has committed to volumes, prices and schedules for multiple varieties of vegetables over the course of 2018.
“We’re extremely excited to be forging a partnership with The Farmhouse so early in their trading life,” said Steve Rudge, Vice President for Procurement at Barakat Group. “The Barakat Group has always been at the forefront of promoting local sourcing for our fresh produce business.”
In a country where 90% of fresh produce is imported and over 70% of fresh water is consumer by the agriculture sector, The Farmhouse is already making a meaningful contribution to the UAE’s food security and sustainable agriculture objectives. From their base in the UAE’s food bowl of Ras Al Khaimah, The Farmhouse is currently selling cucumbers, capsicums, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and zucchinis and has plans to expand their offering over time.