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Rethinking Farming for a Better World

An innovative vertical farm in Dubai – among the largest in the world – is using automation and digitalization to push new food production solutions to their fullest potential. Bustanica is the result of the partnership between Emirates Flight Catering and Crop One, plus the technology input of Siemens. Many of the solutions implemented are significant, for example, Simatic automation and control systems, the building management system Desigo CC, and the Sinamics series variable frequency drives.


Our global food production system faces many pressures. For a start, society needs more food. The world population is constantly growing: by 2050, there will two billion more people than today, meaning 70% more food will be needed, compared with 2009.

There’s also increasing demand for environmentally and socially-responsible approaches to farming. People want food that’s better for them, and for the planet. As a society, we need to source food in ways that lessen climate change, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss, and help minimize waste. Currently, for example, 34% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions are generated by food systems.

Similarly, food transportation – flying and shipping food around the world – needs tackling too. For this, it’s important that nations become more self-sufficient and resilient. Known as ‘food security’, this issue of how available, affordable and accessible food is in a country is increasingly high on agendas.

Many of these issues are particularly important to the UAE and Gulf region, where traditional farming is limited, due to the climate and the land.


However the UAE is also a region that’s championing innovation and technology. As with many other sectors, these twin forces are now also revolutionizing farming, with many of the biggest advances in smart, sustainable food production being put into practice here.

Vertical farming, exemplified by Dubai’s Bustanica project, is the perfect example. The Arabic word for an orchard or garden, Bustanica is the result of the partnership between Emirates Flight Catering and Crop One, plus the technology input of Siemens.

Stretching over 330,000 square feet, this $40 million facility is among the largest of its kind in the world. It’s capable of producing more than 1 million kilogrammes of foodstuffs a year, especially leafy greens, all free of pesticides, herbicides and chemicals.

Around 10 to 15% of Bustanica’s output goes towards the Emirates Flight Catering supply chain, ensuring passengers enjoy locally sourced, nutritious produce. The remainder goes to food service, retail outlets, hotels, restaurants and cafés. Within months of becoming operational, the facility had already started supplying 160 retail stores across the UAE.

But Bustanica isn’t just about scale. It’s also about being smart. The aim is very much to leverage the latest technology; which is where Siemens comes into play. Not only is their technology ideal for ensuring the farm operates at optimum levels in reducing energy and water use, but also because they share a similar vision: to transform the everyday.

Siemens technology has been integrated throughout Bustanica, with clear aims: ensuring efficient production, reducing waste and increasing the farm’s overall sustainability.

Many of the solutions implemented here are significant. For example, the Sinamics series variable frequency drives along with automation stations is designed to circulate water, and maximize how efficiently water is used. So when the water vaporizes it’s recovered and recycled back into the system. This saves 250 million liters of water a year, compared to traditional outdoor farming.

Similarly, the building management system Desigo CC controls and monitors air-conditioning and ventilation at Bustanica, while Simatic automation and control systems deliver optimal growing conditions by controlling the lights and CO2 levels required by the plants.

Moreover, the smart infrastructure Siemens has put into Bustanica means it can sustainably scale up operations over time, enable the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence in the future, and become a model for other vertical farms around the world.


Vertical farming has the potential to revolutionize food production, and tackle many of its challenges. It consumes 95% less water, and because factors such as light, temperature, water and carbon dioxide can be controlled, it’s possible to maximize output and efficiency, and keep growing crops all year – and to a consistent quality. The normal limits – and risks – of days and seasons don’t apply.

As a result, vertical farming is up to 100 times more productive than conventional outdoor farming. Additionally, the facility tackles many of the challenges outlined earlier. For instance, it reduces food transportation miles by providing production closer to consumption, ensuring fresh produce reaches consumers faster and at the peak of nutrition.

Bustanica isn’t just a success story for Emirates Crop One and Siemens, it’s also a lighthouse project for UAE and the world.

As the biggest facility of its type in the world, one that’s going to produce a million kilogram of crops a year, it shows where the future of food production lies.

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