Munich / DE. (bag) Two months after planting the first 90,000 seedlings in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates, Germany’s BayWa AG and Abu Dhabi’s Al Dahra Holding LLC have begun harvesting the first 1.5 tonnes of snack tomatoes. Starting from October, consumers will be able to find this premium vegetable, going by the brand name Mahalli (mahalli.ae), on local food retail shelves. The snack tomatoes have ripened over an area of five hectares in a state-of-the-art climate-controlled glasshouse that BayWa and Al Dahra Holding constructed within the scope of their joint venture Al Dahra BayWa Agriculture LLC.
The entire production facility comprises two five-hectare climate-controlled glasshouses. As the harvest was getting underway, the second climate-controlled glasshouse was being put into operation and planted. The goal of the joint project between BayWa and Al Dahra is to efficiently cultivate vegetables and market them locally while conserving resources. The environmental conditions for agriculture are very challenging in the Emirates. At the same time, there is high demand for regional and sustainably produced fruit and vegetables. Even before production began, the complete first harvest had been marketed.
«I’m delighted that we have built a state-of-the-art, climate-controlled greenhouse in record time with the support of our local and international partners and that we’re already harvesting the first tomatoes,» says Klaus Josef Lutz, Chief Executive Officer of BayWa AG. «The project is part of our Group specialities strategy, where we’re concentrating on special products for lucrative markets and long-term sales opportunities.»
«The Emirates are an extremely attractive market,» says Christiane Bell, Head of the BayWa Global Produce business unit. The Emirates must import 80 percent of all their goods. «This is why there is strong desire for self-sufficiency, especially when it comes to fruit and vegetables. At the same time, people are highly aware of the value of high-quality foodstuffs.»
The modern climate-controlled greenhouse in Al Ain allows production to be carried out all year round, irrespective of the conditions outside. Using up to 70 percent fewer resources, ten times more produce can be harvested than in outdoor production. By the end of October, the volume being harvested each week in Al Ain will have risen to 15 tonnes, with production and harvesting taking place according to European standards. The specially trained pickers separate the red fruit from the vine by hand, while unripe tomatoes stay hanging on the vine. The aim is to offer consumers only the best, tastiest snack tomatoes. The harvested vegetables are then fully automatically weighed and packed in trays of different sizes. The packaging, which was developed while taking sustainability factors into account, was conceptualised for marketing in the Emirates and has a film that can be resealed up to 22 times. A total of roughly 100 people work in the climate-controlled glass house in different roles.