At Seven Generations Ahead, developing sustainable food systems has always been a core part of our mission. So we’re curious what this year’s UN Climate Summit (COP28) host city, Dubai, is doing in this area. With food security becoming an increasingly urgent issue in the face of climate change, we’re looking at one innovative way Dubai is tackling it.

Badia Farms, a 50,000 sq ft commercial vertical farm in Dubai, owned by Joseph Badia, is pioneering a revolutionary approach to agriculture in the arid climate of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The vertical farm addresses the challenges posed by traditional agriculture, such as limited water resources and high temperatures, by employing controlled environment agriculture (CEA) techniques. Notably, the farm utilizes no pesticides and employs a continuous water reuse cycle.

By maximizing vertical space, the farm achieves higher yields while using 90% less water than traditional open-field cultivation. The farm’s output includes approximately 1,000 heads of lettuce daily, meeting the demand for fresh, locally grown produce in the region.

A significant aspect of Badia Farms’ mission is to contribute to the UAE’s goal of achieving food security by 2051. Currently importing over 80% of its food, with agriculture representing 70% of water consumption in most GCC countries. Badia Farms aims to address this by partnering with local restaurants and universities for research projects specifically tailored to the desert and arid climates. The farm has received a substantial $150 million investment  to advance cutting-edge research in Abu Dhabi. 

Despite the commendable strides in improving local food production, there are criticisms regarding the distribution of Badia Farms’ produce. The gourmet products are primarily supplied to high-end restaurants and hotels in the UAE, raising concerns about accessibility for food-insecure populations. However, the farm’s commitment to partnering with local entities for research projects aligns with the UAE’s broader strategy of enhancing local production and incorporating innovative technologies.

In line with global trends, the UAE’s interest in vertical farming reflects a broader movement toward sustainable and local food production. The farm’s clients include establishments such as 

Coya, BB Social Dining – DIFC, The Marriot – Luxury Edition (dubai), Copper dog, The Maine, and Ramusake, which further establishes its presence in the high-end culinary landscape.

While Badia Farms addresses the challenges of traditional agriculture in the UAE, questions regarding energy consumption arise. The use of LED lights is a notable feature, contributing to resource efficiency. However, the specific details about the overall energy use and the source of energy, whether renewable or fossil fuel-based, remain unspecified and are relevant to the project’s overall sustainability. 

In line with global trends, the UAE’s interest in vertical farming reflects a broader movement toward sustainable and local food production. Locally, Seven Generations Ahead is the state lead for the USDA’s Lake Michigan School Food System Innovation Hub, which are two different grant opportunities intended to spur innovation and collaboration in the farm to school space, and to increase access to fresh and local food for schools. We look forward to seeing how these issues may be addressed as we travel to COP28 with our students as part of our It’s Our Future program.