Emirates Flight Catering (EKFC), one of the world’s largest airline catering operators, and Crop One Holdings, a San Francisco Bay Area food startup, are building a massive vertical farm to supply crops for in-flight meals.
Located in a Dubai, the 130,000-square-foot indoor farm will produce up to 6,000 pounds of greens and herbs every day. Unlike traditional outdoor farms, Crop One grows crops year- round under LEDs (which mimic natural sunlight) located inside climate-controlled rooms, which are each set to optimal temperature and oxygen levels depending on the crop. Instead of soil, greens sprout in nutrient-rich water beds on trays stacked from the floor to the ceiling. Sensors in the trays track how the plants are doing in real time.
The two companies started construction in November 2018, and delivered crops to Emirates Flight Catering’s customers, including 105 airlines and 25 airport lounges, in December 2019.
Ms.Sonia Lo, Crop One's CEO is referring to the economic challenges that a number of vertical farming companies have faced in the US (Panasonic and Google have abandoned vertical farming projects, and FarmedHere — once the largest vertical farm in the US — shut down last year). Since vertical farms rely on large amounts of electricity from the LEDs, high energy costs can make it harder for them to compete in regions where cheap produce is abundant.
Crop One could find more success abroad — but only if its new Dubai farm manages to scale as promised, lowering production costs. The company also plans to expand domestically in the US. In coming years, it will launch two farms in the Northeast and one in the Southwest, selling to nearby retailers and food-service customers.
According to Business Insider