Emirates BioFarm (EBF) is providing locally grown, organic produce to residents of the United Arab Emirates. Committed to communicating their message of sustainability, EBF also works to educate the public about the impact of agricultural practices and dietary choices on the environment.
Established in 2016, EBF is the largest organic farm in the UAE. Yazen Al Kodmani, the Deputy General Manager for EBF tells Food Tank that they currently produce more than 55 different types of fruits and vegetables in greenhouses and shade houses along with eggs.
Eaters who purchase a produce subscription box from EBF have the chance to try the farm’s offerings, which vary by season. Consumers are “eating broccoli when it’s in season, watermelon when it’s in season, okra or lady finger when it’s in season. And then they appreciate it much more,” Al Kodmani tells Food Tank.
The Farmer’s Table, a restaurant located at EBF, takes the same approach, preparing dishes made with ingredients picked straight from the farm. “We cook what we have in abundance,” Al Kodmani says. “If broccoli season is gone, it has to go. I’m not going to buy broccoli [for a dish]” he says, no matter how popular it may be.
Al Kodmani explains that many people don’t associate the UAE — a region that imports 80 to 90 percent of the food residents consume, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture — with agricultural production. “Water is a big challenge here,” he tells Food Tank. “The UAE and the Gulf sit on these ancient aquifers and most of the countries here are using groundwater [which] we are depleting faster than [it is being regenerated].”
But EBF is identifying practices appropriate for the climate. “Nobody’s using sprinklers or flooding or any of that,” Al Kodmani says. “So it’s all drip irrigation. And hydroponics is taking hold because of its water saving attributes.”
The farm also works with the soil they have, making use of the red sand, also known as “sweet sand,” Al Kodmani says. “It’s actually a good base to start with,” he explains, noting that to this they add organic matter in the form of compost and manure.
Al Kodmani believes that these practices are essential so that they can provide food to the local community and reduce their reliance on imported products. “Food security is a matter of national security,” he tells Food Tank.
Listen to the full conversation with Yazen Al Kodmani on Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg to hear more about the challenges of local food production in an arid environment, the education and outreach conducted by EBF through its farm visits, and why sustainable diets will look different across countries and regions.
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Photo courtesy of Yazen Al Kodmani