Technological watch

Pearl supplies ‘world’s largest vertical farm’ with PU panels

Dubai-based Pearl Polyurethane Systems has supplied its EcoPearl rigid PU foam for insulation and cladding in what is claimed to be the world’s largest vertical farm.

Bustanica, located near Dubai’s Al Maktoum International Airport, has been built by Emirates Flight Catering. The in-flight catering arm of Emirates Airlines produces more than 55 million meals annually.

The 31,000-square-meter indoor facility will produce more than 1,000 metric tons of leafy greens including lettuces, arugula, mixed salad greens and spinach for in-flight meals annually, while reportedly requiring 95 percent less water than conventional agriculture.

The indoor hydroponic farm was built using PU-based sandwich insulation panels, which were chosen because of their superior insulation and sustainability properties compared with alternative building insulation options, such as rockwool. As the Middle East experiences extreme summer termperature, indoor farming — with internal temperature control and regulation — is necessary to ensure supply of nutritious vegetation. It is hoped that the Dubai project will pave the way for other vertical farm developments elsewhere in the Middle East.

The metal sandwich insulation panels are manufactured by United Arab Emirates-based manufacturer Emirates Industrial Panel (EIP), from EcoPearl rigid foam supplied by Pearl Polyurethane. The cladding is said to be lightweight and quick to fit, as well as offering advanced fire and smoke resistant properties.

"We are thrilled to support this world leading sustainable farming project by supplying our high-performance EcoPearl polyurethane material for the metal sandwich insulation panels installed on Bustanica together with our manufacturing partner, EIP," Pearl CEO Martin Kruczinna said. "These panels comprise a rigid polyurethane foam core, laminated with metal sheets on either side, and are typically used as wall and roof cladding, to keep heat out by minimising thermal energy transfer. 

"Key considerations for the vertical farm operators, as with any other building owner, is how to regulate the indoor temperature to ensure optimal crop harvests in the extreme Middle Eastern climate without using expensive cooling systems - effective building insulation is therefore critical. With rising energy costs, better insulation means less energy consumption, leading the fight against global warming. Pearl-supplied rigid polyurethane foam used in this project is by far the most superior means of insulation on the market and we are proud our EcoPearl product is a key component of this cutting-edge sustainable farming project as it achieves this world-first and serves as a megatrend enabler promoting global food security.’

Ali Ihsan Cetiner, general manager of EIP, said: ‘As the next megatrend in the field of agribusiness and nutrition, vertical farming is a particularly space-saving, sustainable and efficient way of growing plants.

‘PU-based insulation panels have industry leading insulation properties, with impeccable thermal insulation and fire resistance properties. EIP and our partners such as Pearl are working hard to support modern agricultural initiatives such as vertical farm operators, by engineering solutions to the industry through developing and manufacturing FM-Approved PU-based insulation panels for large scale, multi-story vertical farming complexes. Vertical farming offers solutions to the most pressing problems posed by today’s modern agribusiness economy. As the UAE’s leading sandwich panel insulation manufacturer, EIP is proud to be contributing to the success of this mega-trend with our extensive range of PU-based insulation solutions.’

Emirates Airlines claims Bustanica will save more than 250 million litres of water annually. The farm’s closed-loop system is designed to circulate water through the plants to maximise water usage and efficiency. When the water vaporises, it is recovered and recycled into the system.

Publication date: 31/10/2022

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 1914.