UAE agricultural firm uses technology to help with food security

Smart Acres’ vertical farming technology enables it to produce approximately 8 tons of lettuce per cropping cycle. (Supplied)
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Updated 13 July 2020

UAE agricultural firm uses technology to help with food security

DUBAI: Smart Acres aims to support the UAE’s food security program by using high-tech vertical farming to produce approximately 8,000 kilograms of lettuce per cycle.

“In the expansion phase, we will have 78 modules, which comes to a total of 88,320 pots. Each lettuce, for example, will weigh 100 grams. So, that is approximately 8,000 kilograms of crops per cycle,” the company’s CEO Abdulla Al-Kaabi told Arab News.

The vertical farm — currently in the proof-of-concept stage — is expected to launch in the third quarter of 2020, producing 12 cycles of crops annually and expanding from Abu Dhabi to the rest of the country. In this type of farming, plants are stocked vertically, providing more produce per area and resembling something similar to the green walls sometimes seen in malls.




Smart Acres collaborated with South Korean vertical farming technology n.thing in their farming processes. (Supplied)

The company collaborated with South Korean vertical farming technology n.thing to employ the Internet of Things in their farming so as to efficiently use water and monitor humidity, temperature and nutrients.

“Vertical farms, in general, save over 90 percent of water compared to traditional farming methods. There is a constant water flow across all the little pots, and the water is filled with all the nutrients necessary for the plant to grow,” Lead Project Manager Aphisith Joe Phongsavanh said.

The high-tech design of the farm allows Smart Acres to produce clean crops without any pesticides and with minimal intervention.

“Since we are growing our crops in a 100 percent closed environment, we don’t have to use pesticides at all. That’s exactly what we mean by clean food: non-adulterated food products that go through minimal processing,” Phongsavanh said.

However, this closed environment in which the plants grow requires staff and visitors to wear protective gear before entering the premises in order to preserve the sterility of the area.

“It is almost like going into a very high-tech factory. You have to wear lab coats and go through an air shower, where one is door closed and the other door only opens after 10 seconds of disinfection,” Director of Smart Acres Sean Lea said.

Currently, the company does not have any investors, but Al-Kaabi said that the expansion phase “of course will require an investment,” expected to cost around AED16.7 million ($4.5 million).

It will not just include a larger number of crops, but also a research and development center with a vision to start cultivating baby spinach, mature spinach, baby arugula, strawberries and potato seeds.

Earlier in July, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan visited some local farms and met with agricultural entrepreneurs.

“I was pleased to meet some of the UAE’s aspiring agricultural entrepreneurs who are pioneering sustainable and resilient farming practices using modern technology,” Al-Nahyan tweeted.

 

 

The UAE is pushing for local production of crops and livestock. According to Khaleej Times, the Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority provided over $174 million to “138,000 families, 30,632 breeders and farmers, and 259 small-scale producers and commercial animal farms in Abu Dhabi” to support the industry in June.


Aramco profits fall in tough quarter, but sees partial recovery from COVID-19 impact

Updated 09 August 2020

Aramco profits fall in tough quarter, but sees partial recovery from COVID-19 impact

  • Aramco see’s “partial recovery” from pandemic impact
  • Aramco president says company remains resilient

DUBAI: Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, reported a net income of $6.57bn for the second quarter of 2020, the period which witnessed the most volatile oil market conditions for many decades.

The result, announced to the Tadawul stock exchange in Riyadh where the shares are listed, compared with income of $24.7 bn last year.

Amin Nasser, president and chief executive, said: “Despite COVID-19 bringing the world to a standstill, Aramco kept going. We have proven our financial resilience and operational reliability, setting a record in our business operations, while at the same time taking steps to ensure the health and safety of our people.”

Aramco’s dividend - a big attraction for the investors who bought into the world’s biggest initial public offering last year - will remain as pledged, Nasser added. Cash flow in the quarter amounted to $6.106 bn.

““Strong headwinds from reduced demand and lower oil prices are reflected in our second quarter results. Yet we delivered solid earnings because of our low production costs, unique scale, agile workforce, and unrivalled financial and operational strength. This helped us deliver on our plan to maintain a second quarter dividend of $18.75 billion to be paid in the third quarter,” he said.

Aramco said the loss was “mainly reflecting the impact of lower crude oil prices and declining refining and chemicals margins, partly offset by a decrease in production royalties resulting from lower crude oil prices and a decrease in the royalty rate from 20 per cent to 15 per cent, lower income taxes and zakat as a result of lower earnings, and higher other income related to sales for gas products.”

Sales and revenue in the period - which saw oil prices collapse on “Black Monday” in April - fell 57 per cent to $32.861 bn from the comparable period last year. 

Nasser said he was cautiously optimistic that the world economy was slowly recovering from the depths of the pandemic lockdowns.

“We are seeing a partial recovery in the energy market as countries around the world take steps to ease restrictions and reboot their economies. Meanwhile, we continue to place people’s safety first and have adapted to the new normal, implementing wide-ranging precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19 wherever we operate.

“We are determined to emerge from the pandemic stronger and will continue making progress on our long-term strategic journey, through ongoing investments in our business – which has one of the lowest upstream carbon footprints in the world,” he added.

Aramco expects capital expenditure to be at the lower end of the $25bn to $30bn range it has already indicated for this year.