By Gavin Gibbon
UAE-based agribusiness strikes deal with The Sultan Centre to supply produce straight from the farm to the store shelves
UAE-based Pure Harvest Smart Farms is expanding its controlled-environment agriculture concept across the GCC with a $35 million deal to build a dedicated high-tech farm in Kuwait.
Although an exact site is still to be confirmed, the agreement with retail outfit, The Sultan Centre (TSC), will see the construction of a farm stretching across eight hectares (80,000 sqm), producing millions of kilograms of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Pure Harvest has been running its pilot farm in the UAE for the last two years, supplying supermarket giants Spinneys, Waitrose and Carrefour. Further farms are currently being built in Al Ain and in the Saudi capital Riyadh.
Sky Kurtz, co-founder and CEO of Pure Harvest Smart Farms, told Arabian Business: “In our existing pilot facility we’re producing over 600 metric tonnes a year. What we’re building right now in Al Ain is seven times larger than our existing production and what we’ll be building for TSC is over ten times larger the current facility. It’s quite significant.”
Pure Harvest designs, builds and operates high-tech, climate-controlled hybrid growing systems that convert the region’s natural sunlight into premium quality, pesticide-residue free fresh fruits and vegetables.
The agribusiness recently secured a multi-stage investment commitment valued at over $100m from Kuwait’s International Investment Company (Wafra), a wholly owned subsidiary of the Public Institution for Social Security, to drive the research, development and deployment of advanced controlled environment agriculture solutions in Kuwait and across the region.
Khadija Oubala, CEO at TSC, revealed that TSC has witnessed “double-digit growth” across all departments over the last six months, with “exponential growth” in fresh goods.
The company currently imports up to 90 percent of its fresh fruit and vegetables but Oubala said that having the new farm based in the country will reduce logistics issues that have been exacerbated as a result of the various coronavirus lockdowns, curfews and border closures.
“We have always been focusing in the past in making sure we have an excellent fresh food offering for our customers, but we saw in the last few years, a huge focus from our customers and demand for healthy products and organic products,” she told Arabian Business.
“Unfortunately those products are out of reach. Usually they are imported from other countries and usually it takes days, if not weeks, to bring them here. For us this was amazing timing to partner with Pure Harvest and have this product in our back yard.
“I think the situation with Covid, if anything, has emphasised this need, because we’ve experienced some disturbance in terms of supply chain during the peak time.”
Kurtz said there are also plans to include a visitor centre alongside the farm, with the potential to create up to 140 new jobs in the country.
Once a site has been agreed, after final designs and engineering is approved, the farm will take around nine months to complete, with Kurtz hoping it can be up-and-running by the second half of next year, offering customers from TSC many varieties of tomatoes, vine crops, leafy greens and berries.
Founded in 1981, TSC is the largest independent publicly-traded retailer in Kuwait, serving millions of customers across Kuwait, Oman, Jordan, and Bahrain through its network of 60 stores.
Oubala said that the company currently sources fresh produce from over 20 countries across the world, with restrictions on seasonality. She added that deal with Pure Harvest could be extended to cover other countries outside Kuwait.
“For the time being this deal is purely for Kuwait but I think we have plans to expand this partnership in other markets because we see this clearly as an opportunity to re-enforce our position in other markets,” she said.
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