5 Things You Should Know About The Challenges and Opportunities in Indoor Agriculture

The fifth edition of the Global Forum for Innovation in Agriculture (GFIA) took place on 5-6 February 2018 in Abu Dhabi. The Forum was founded on the belief that technology gives us the only real chance of feeding nine billion people without destroying the environment. This year GFIA attracted almost 6,000 people from over 85 countries. This event was one of a series of activities that were a part of UAE Innovation Month.

Abdulaziz K. AlMulla, Co-founder and CEO of Madar Farms, was invited as a speaker. He delivered a talk on Challenges and Opportunities in Indoor Farming.  

Here are 5 takeaways from his speech:

1. Food security is simultaneously obscure and a buzzword

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“It seems food production and food security has been one of the hottest topics of discussion over the last few years. And yet, why is it that we have fundamentally changed our perception of varies industries like transportation, communication, labor - but our basic method of farming has not changed. This is the promise that Indoor Agriculture brings to us - to bring food accessibility and safety to anyone, anywhere at anytime for the first time.”

 

2. The indoor farming promise: local, consistent, and sustainable

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“Part of the challenge is the perceived need to compete against current production. In comparison to indoor farming, currently, conventional farms require less CapEx, lower input costs, and an established consumer base Competing on price is not only financial suicide at this point, but disregards the value proposition of indoor farming: local, consistent and sustainable.

 

3. Urban farms – a real estate development opportunity

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“As we see arable and croplands dwindle, and more farms locate in Urban areas, we will observe indoor farming through a new lens – real estate development. These changing circumstances are being recognised by the investor community as we see more funding flow to the sector than ever before.”

 

4. Innovating beyond leafy greens

 

“Initiatives such as MIT’s OpenAg community have led to widening access to knowledge driving these new innovations. The indoor leafy green space is an established one, but we are now seeing commercially viable development of strawberries, tomatoes, legumes and even fish. As further crops are developed, we will see new financial opportunity, but also the ability to offer a more comprehensive food solution.

5. Indoor urban farming – one part of the farming portfolio

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"In no way is indoor farming the end-all food solution for the world – rather indoor farming has the opportunity to work alongside conventional farming to build a more robust and sustainable ecosystem. Imagine a collection of community based, roof based, and home/office based modular farms inside the city. These could produce highly perishable and high value items like micro-greens. This could be complemented by large automated farms producing variety of leafy greens, berries, legumes etc. Conventional farms located in rural areas would grow what is unfeasible otherwise – like wheat. If instead of seeing Indoor Farming as a replacement for current methods, if we perceive it as part of a portfolio of farming methods – we can begin to realise greater food resilience and sustainability."