Crop One Holdings, Inc., San Mateo, Calif., through its FreshBox Farms brand, formed a joint venture with Emirates Flight Catering (EKFC), Dubai, to build what is said to be the world’s largest vertical farming facility in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The $40 million, 130,000-square-foot controlled environment facility will produce 6,000 pounds of high-quality, herbicide- and pesticide-free leafy greens, harvested daily, using 99% less water than outdoor fields. Its location will enable quick delivery of fresh products within hours of harvest, maintaining the food’s nutritional value and reducing carbon emissions associated with transportation.

 “Our proven business model has demonstrated profitable commercial production longer than any other major vertical farmer globally,” says Sonia Lo, chief executive officer of Crop One Holdings. “We are farmers using the most sophisticated plant science and proven business efficiencies to provide market leading consumer products every day. Our selection after a 10-month search by EKFC is a validation of our successful business model that uses patented technology and processes to optimize crop yields and facilitate hyper-growth.”

Construction of the UAE facility will begin in November, and is expected to be completed in one year. First products will be delivered to EKFC’s customers, including 105 airlines and 25 airport lounges in December 2019.

“As one of the world’s largest airline catering operations, Emirates Flight Catering constantly looks at innovation and ways to improve our productivity, product and service quality,” says Saeed Mohammed, chief executive officer of EKFC. “By investing to build and operate the world’s largest vertical farming facility, we secure our own supply chain of high-quality and locally-sourced fresh vegetables, while significantly reducing our environmental footprint. We are pleased to partner with Crop One, and together, we look forward to delivering a best-in-class product and excellent value to our customers and stakeholders.”

The joint venture will increase Crop One leafy green production to a total of 5.3 tons per day by next fall, including the three new U.S. farms Crop One is bringing on line by the end of 2018.

FreshBox Farms produces nine different leafy green retail products, serving 38 different supermarket and home delivery services in the Boston metropolitan area.  

“Crop One is the leading developer, operator and systems integrator, well beyond the technology experiment phase of most vertical farming,” says Lo. “We are the only vertical farmer with a proven model at scale, which enables us to produce the highest quality greens at a quarter of the costs of other major vertical farm operators and with 20-60% higher yields. We have invested 4 years building our systems integration and development platform while establishing robust capital optimization. As a result, our capital efficiency is second to none, and this equips us with best mover advantages in breaking ground in locations where our innovation and environmental and food safety advantages are welcomed by cities, economies and consumers alike. This JV with EKFC also enables us to expand the success of our FreshBox Farm brand internationally for the first time.”