Two months after the first 90,000 seedlings were planted in Al Ain, in the United Arab Emirates, both BayWa AG from Munich and the Al Dahra Holding from Abu Dhabi began harvesting the first 1.5 tons of snack tomatoes. From October onwards, these premium vegetables will be found on the shelves of the local food retail market under the "Mahalli" private label.
Efficient and resource-friendly cultivation
The snack tomatoes grow on five hectares in state-of-the-art climate controlled greenhouses constructed by BayWa and Al Dahra as part of the Al Dahra-BayWa Agriculture LLC joint venture. The entire production plant comprises two five-acre greenhouses. When the first harvest was going on, the second greenhouse was commissioned and tomatoes were planted there as well.
The aim of the joint project between BayWa and Al Dahra is to grow vegetables efficiently, while conserving local resources and to market the vegetables locally as well. Natural conditions in the Emirates for agriculture are very demanding. But at the same time, there is a high demand for regionally and sustainably produced fruits and vegetables. Even before production started, the entire first harvest was already marketed.
"I am delighted that, with the support of our local and international partners, we have built state-of-the-art climate greenhouses in record time and are already harvesting the first tomatoes," says Klaus Josef Lutz, CEO of BayWa AG. "The project is part of our specialty strategy in the Group. We focus on specialty products for lucrative markets with long-term sales opportunities."
"The Emirates are a highly attractive market," says Christiane Bell, Head of BayWa Global Produce. 80 percent of all goods must be imported into the Emirates. "The desire for self-sufficiency especially regarding fruits and vegetables is therefore great. At the same time, people have a deep awareness of the value of quality food."
The modern climate controlled greenhouses in Al Ain allow year-round production, regardless of external conditions. With up to 70 percent less resources used, ten times the normal amounts can be harvested compared to outdoor production. By the end of October, the weekly harvest in Al Ain is expected to rise to 15 tons. Production and harvest methods will follow European standards. The specially trained pickers separate the tomatoes from the panicle by hand. These will remain immature, in order to offer consumers only the best, tastiest snack tomatoes.
The harvested vegetables are then weighed and packaged in trays of different sizes fully automatically. The packaging, developed according to sustainability principles, was specially designed for marketing in the Emirates and has a film that is resealable some 22 times. In total, about 100 people work in various functions in the greenhouses.