The Bay Area company building world’s largest vertical farm in Dubai


The Bay Area company building world’s largest vertical farm in Dubai

A small San Mateo company is building what is billed as the world’s largest vertical farm next year in Dubai, right on the runway that serves Emirates airline. The 50-foot-high sealed warehouse will produce 3 tons of leafy greens a day, without using a drop of what Sonia Lo calls “free energy” — otherwise known as sunlight — or soil, essentially recreating an optimized version of Central California in the Middle East.

“I love the fact that you’re redistributing the means of feeding back to where people actually are,” said Lo, CEO of Crop One Holdings in San Mateo, which since 2015 has provided fresh-cut lettuce and basil through Boston’s snowy winters from the company’s first vertical farm in Massachusetts. “The implications for what agriculture can do in terms of feeding more people are also incredibly exciting.”

Large-scale vertical farming, sometimes called indoor farming, uses LED lights and small doses of water and nutrients to grow leafy greens and herbs — and soon strawberries — year-round in otherwise unsuitable climates. Since the farming method can protect plants from the ravages of climate change, and may have the potential to recreate terroir for wine grapes or coffee, it’s attracting big investors. In the Bay Area, Crop One’s just-announced partnership with Emirates Flight Catering amounted to $40 million just to build the Dubai farm, and Plenty in South San Francisco, which will open a farm in the Seattle area this year, raised $200 million in funding last July….

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