UAE's high-tech farms see boom instead of gloom

In the Middle East, big bucks are being poured into trying to make the desert bloom.

The Gulf states rely on imports for up to 90% of food.

For years, they’ve spent billions of dollars in a quest for food security.

Now - in the United Arab Emirates - it could be about to pay off.

Sharad Bachani, from Merlin Agrotunnel Farms:

"With the Middle East, you are forced to [grow indoors] because you just can't grow over here unless you apply technologies like this. So yes, there is interest, not just from stores, supermarkets, but also from individuals who can create a smaller version of this at home."

Expensive programmes have floundered in the past, coming up against the hot climate and lack of water.

But the region's petrodollars allowed it to take risks, betting on new technologies that are capable of commercialising crops, using significantly less water in harsh environments.

In 2019, the oil-rich capital Abu Dhabi approved a series of incentive packages worth $272 million to support agricultural technology projects.

As lockdowns crush supply chains world-wide, local, high-tech farms are in prime position, says Omar al-Jundi, the CEO of a vertical farming business.

"The world as we know it has changed forever. From a macro standpoint, governments will go back to localizing certain vital industries, such as agriculture, to ensure supply will never be interrupted."

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