UAE's first Agtech company using desert land for sustainable protein production
(Photo : UAE's first Agtech company using desert land for sustainable protein production)

Verticroft Holdings is a Middle East-focused holdings company with portfolio firms in Agri-tech, precision agriculture cultivation, animal breeding, food security, food distribution, and F&B.

The Gulf Cooperation council (GCC), in an attempt to abolish a weak productivity performance, decided to achieve this by identifying, evaluating and giving evidence-based alternative solutions to the key challenges facing the sector. The problems were identified to be:

Lack of arable land 

Due to its location in an arid region, the UAE has limited agricultural resources. Agricultural policies should be focused on addressing challenges like food security and resource conservation, given the scarcity of agricultural resources and arable land. The current usage of such limited resources could result in either economic overuse or underuse, with potentially lasting effects.

Limited water resources

Water scarcity is one of the most pressing issues facing the GCC countries, with a deficit of over 20 billion cubic meters. Arid climatic conditions, intense heat waves, and little rainfall are just a few of the key causes of water scarcity in the region. In 2014, the GCC's total renewable water resources per capita were just 86.6 cubic meters, compared to a global average of 17,575 cubic meters. 

Greater reliance on food imports 

The GCC countries' reliance on food imports has grown over time, owing mostly to low resource availability and incompatible climatic conditions. Not only does the region have a limited amount of arable land, but it also has insufficient water supplies. Governments from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are investing in foreign farmlands in places including Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mali, Serbia, Sudan, Tanzania, and Zambia. Between 2011 and 2016, the GCC's food imports increased at a CAGR of 3.1 percent. With a share of 44.2 percent, Saudi Arabia was the largest importer, followed by the UAE (30.6 percent) and Kuwait (9.1 percent).

Vulnerability of food price fluctuation

As detailed in the GCC Food Industry report of 2020, a greater reliance on food imports exposes GCC countries to global food price swings and geopolitical concerns. After reaching multiperiod lows between 2015 and 2016, global food prices have seen a trend reversal. In June 2019, the FAO Food Price Index was 173.0 points, which was much higher than the previous two years' average. Prices of the most commonly consumed food item in the GCC remain high, posing an imminent threat of food inflation in the area.

Verticroft provides a unique solution to these problems through the application of IoT Ag technology. Verticroft designs, builds, and creates IoT-connected growing facilities that generate fresh green feed 365 days a year, regardless of the weather. Verticroft uses only 900 litres of water and 30 SQM of space to produce one metric tonne of fresh feed each day. Verticroft fodder is highly environmentally friendly and costs a fraction of the price of forage purchased in the UAE. Vitamins, minerals, rich fiber, high crude protein levels, and helpful enzymes abound in Verticroft fodder and all feed grown is 95% digestible.

All of the production grown feeds livestock, raised locally in the UAE to reduce the imports of animal feed and meat. 

Verticroft produces more fodder in 30sqm in one year than traditional farming  could produce on 50 hectares of land. This frees up agricultural land  or utilisation in other sectors for application to places like feed sectors. Verticroft can run 4,000 sheeps on 1.5 hectares which is vastly lower  than you would be able to run on a normal farming system. Normal farming system would require around 500 hectares of land to do this. Verticroft also uses 900 litres of water per tonne to produce one tonne of fresh feed Generally, it takes about 100,000 litres. 

Verticroft holdings is the first company in the GCC to create a fully vertically integrated food security solution solving many of the GCC;s  problems.

It is easy to see that Verticroft strongly focuses on sustainability while reducing imports, airfreight, logistics and costs from the food supply chain whilst making maximum use of local resources, environment and supply. Wastage is kept at an absolute minimum since there is a need to make full use of all resources. Verticroft take and use only non-arable, previously unoccupied and unusable desert land and turn it into a valuable source of protein production in a region with the world's largest meat consumption per capita. 

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