Pure Harvest, a greenhouse farming company in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has raised a $4.5 million seed round to build climate-controlled, tech-enabled greenhouses in the UAE and beyond. Investors in the round include a UAE government-backed innovation fund, a list of angel investors and some of Pure Harvest’s technology partners.
The need for this growing method stems from the lack of food security in the UAE and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries more broadly, according to Pure Harvest founder Sky Kurtz. The UAE alone imports more than 80% of its food and recent bans on imports of regional produce due to high levels of pesticide residue, highlight the necessity for an improved local food supply. Kurtz says that in an arid climate with limited water supply, this necessitates controlled environment agriculture (CEA). Pure Harvest plans to eventually deploy a portfolio of CEA technologies such as vertical farms and container-based growing solutions to deliver a wide variety of fresh produce.
“Pure Harvest’s tech-enabled approach to arid climate agriculture and its strong project team offer a realistic and much-needed solution for improving food security across the Gulf, as well as a means not just to maintain domestic agriculture, but to profitably expand it – all while preserving the region’s precious remaining freshwater aquifers. Ultimately, I see this kind of sustainable domestic agriculture as a critical component of any successful post-oil diversification strategy,” said investor David Scott, a member of the Pure Harvest board of advisors, former US National Security Council Director for North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and now a consultant for Middle East governments.
Scott told AgFunderNews in August that he even believes the UAE could one day become a food exporter if they get serious about adopting this technology.
Also joining the Pure Harvest board is Sultan bin Khalid Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, who Kurtz says will be Pure Harvest’s local partner in the Saudi market when the time comes to expand.
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Kurtz expects to complete the first growing facility by the middle of next year and to begin selling its products in the second half of 2018. He will then expand the business in the region, recognizing that other GCC countries are facing the same challenges as the UAE with regards to import-dependence, water shortages, and climate-driven production constraints.
The company is planning to grow vine crops such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and strawberries and sell to grocery stores at a price somewhere in between the costly imports and the cheap local produce grown in subsidized agricultural schemes in the UAE.
“With Pure Harvest, we hope to address food security concerns and to take a giant step forward to be less dependent on international imports for fresh produce, which will directly contribute to the UAE’s long-term sustainability,” said Mahmoud Adi, cofounder of Pure Harvest and the founding partner ofAbu Dhabi-based Shorooq Investments.
This round follows an earlier $1.1 million pre-seed round led by Shorooq in 2016.