Speaking to Zawya, Hassan Halawy, General Manager, EAP said that the company is studying establishing a wheat farm in Ethiopia due to the rising demand for the grain.
EAP is mainly involved in the design and execution of open field as well as CEA (controlled environment agriculture) projects that require varying levels of technology – low, medium, or high, – in addition to associated agro-processing facilities and cold chain infrastructure.
The company was set up four years ago as the development arm of Elite Agro Holding, established in 2008 as a subsidiary of the UAE-headquartered investment company Yas Holding.
The proposed project would involve an agreement with the local government to export part of the harvest to the UAE and sell the rest locally in Ethiopia.
“We are still working on the estimations and value-engineering of the yet-undisclosed mega project,” Halawy said in an exclusive interview, adding that EAP currently operates a flower farm in Ethiopia.
The EAP executive further explained that instead of going and investing in farms and competing with the local farmers, the company also plans to develop agro-processing facilities that will contribute towards improving the livelihoods of the locals.
The plants would also create agreements where they can off-take their products and sell their products in our markets.
Halawy said it was too early to reveal the project values.
However, a source familiar with the wheat farm project, who preferred to remain unnamed, told Zawya Projects that a rough estimated value of the development is US$200 million, but the value could change over time.
Currently, the company is working on agricultural projects in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Halawy said that they recently won the development of the first open field project with NEOM in Saudi Arabia, where they will design and execute a 25-hectare table grapes farm. ‘The engineering works have begun, and the farm will be ready in one year.”
Last year, the company successfully executed the initial phase of the Saba Sanabel [seven spikes in Arabic] wheat farm project in Mleiha, Sharjah, which Sheikh Dr Sultan Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, inaugurated.
“This year, we are working on the expansion in two phases. We are adding 1,000 hectares, which will be handed over by the end of this month (October 2023). It was built in a record time of 45 days to catch the next season in 2023-2024,” he said.
According to a March 2023 report by state news agency WAM, the project aims to harvest 15,200 tonnes of wheat, equal to Sharjah’s annual consumption. The sowing for the 400-acre Phase 1 was done in November 2022, with the produce harvested in March 2023.
Halawy said the company has a two-year pipeline of CEA projects in the UAE.
He elaborated that they are concentrating mostly on the medium-tech retractable roof net houses because they believe that they are more sustainable; they consume less water and electricity with a lower carbon footprint than chilled greenhouses.”
“However, we might also work on some chilled greenhouses with certain produce to fill the summer gap – the ratio is 85/15 between medium-tech and high-tech.”
Halawy said his own estimates indicate the UAE agritech market will reach AED500 million (US$136 million) in the coming year.