While the agricultural technology (AgTech) industry is at a relatively nascent stage in the Middle East, the UAE’s notable efforts to boost food security through self-sufficiency will attract more investment in the sector in the coming years.

The UAE government appointed Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri as minister of state for food security in October 2017 and, this summer, approved the Sustainable Agriculture System to raise self-sufficiency and competitiveness in the local food production sector.

Vertical farming, in particular, is expected to gain further traction as part of the national strategy to raise food security by deploying AgTech.

For the local engineering sector, this push for sustainable agriculture could not have come at a better time. With limited new work available due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the engineering requirements of the buildings housing vertical farms present a niche area of opportunities for the local contracting industry.

Mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) consultants and contractors are expected to experience greater demand for their skills in the sustainable life-cycling of buildings.

Structures are often designed and built from scratch to meet the technical specifications of vertical farming, which requires carefully controlled light and temperature to succeed. 

In markets such as the US, it is also common to repurpose buildings for vertical farming. 

Both options necessitate buildings that are powered efficiently, without the typical failings of poorly delivered MEP services, such as over-designed cooling systems or excessive heat gains.

MEED reports that, in the UAE, local AgTech companies such as Badia Farms and Madar Farms have already invested significant amounts of capital to sustainably grow fresh produce.

Local MEP industry stakeholders should consider how they can gain from the new opportunities that vertical farming will bring as investment grows, the report concludes.

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