A Dubai hotel has taken a big step when it comes to sustainably sourcing ingredients at its in-house restaurants – by setting up a vertical hydroponic farm on-site.
Having produce grown on the premises reduces its carbon footprint and transport costs for the buyer.
“We are doing it for two reasons. A chef will always want the freshest and best possible ingredients, and the need to think of sustainability is immense,” said the property’s executive chef, Tobias Pfister.
“We all need to reduce our carbon footprints. The food is literally grown here and then served on the tables.
“There’s no transportation or logistics involved. I can actually go in the morning to the farm and cut the lettuce and have it in a salad bowl that lunchtime.”
In vertical farming, crops are grown in layers on top of one another, while hydroponics is the process of growing plants in nutrient-rich liquid instead of soil.
A sustainable strategy
The farm, which is about 40 square metres, is inside a sealed container on the property’s grounds in Dubai Marina.
Plants, including lettuce, kale, basil, rosemary and thyme will be grown year-round.
“Sustainability is becoming something that’s an important part of the conversation for every hospitality company,” said Mr Pfister.
“It’s becoming an important trend for every chef.”
He also said food security was thrown under the spotlight by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We all saw how supply chains were interrupted. All industries were impacted, not just hospitality, and it was important to learn lessons from that,” he said.
“Companies in this region import a lot of their products, so we saw the importance of coming up with alternatives to help localise these markets.”
The Ritz-Carlton’s vertical farm was created in collaboration with Green Container Advanced Farming, a hydroponics specialist.
The method is often said to be a solution to the long-standing problem of finding areas to farm in rapidly urbanising areas.
“It has been established in many cities across the world already; it’s nothing new,” said Mr Pfister.
“When cities keep growing it means space becomes limited and conventional farming methods become unrealistic. This is clearly a way forward.”
Vertical farming on the up
US vertical farm company AeroFarms broke ground on a research and development centre in the capital last summer.
The 8,200-square-metre facility is part of a $150 million plan by Abu Dhabi Investment Office to bring cutting-edge technology to the forefront of efforts to improve food security.
At about that time, Sokovo, an agricultural technology company, announced it was building a 92,000-square-metre vertical farm at Dubai Industrial City.
“The significance of this launch is twofold; we are firstly supporting the UAE on its journey to increasing sustainability, while also enabling our guests to eat locally grown produce, which of course, is more environmentally friendly, but also superior in quality, taste and freshness,” said Jeroen Elmendorp, general manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai.
“Looking forward, we aim to boost responsible operations, which involves placing sustainability at the heart of all that we do.
“I am confident the launch of our very own hydroponic facility will provide our guests with an incredible culinary experience.”