Go organic! UAE farmers delivering organic produce direct to your door
What’s On and Good magazine review three companies who offer organic food delivery in Dubai, including Ripe, Greenheart and Prime Gourmet.
We meet David Prokopiak, Agriculture and Sales Manager at Ripe.
What’s Ripe’s vision? Ripe’s vision is guided by our passion for local organic produce; we work really hard to source the best local, organic produce and I personally visit the farms weekly. While we are all about the fresh stuff our vision is much wider; we want to engage the local community in what we are doing, we want to support local, talented businesses by providing them a platform to showcase themselves through the Ripe Markets.
What’s your favourite part of the job? I love harvest time; I get to witness the satisfaction of the farmers when a fantastic crop comes out of the ground and I see the excitement on our clients face when they taste our produce. There’s a real enthusiasm emerging amongst residents of the UAE, for local, seasonal, organic produce and that is fantastic to witness.
What’s a typical day for you? I wake up at 6.30am and train (fitness is my other passion) before heading into the office. No two days are the same; I work with our logistics and purchasing team to ensure produce goes out to clients around the UAE, visit our local farmers to check on the crops coming out of the ground and offer support, develop growing plans for upcoming seasons and source new varieties of fruits and veggies to keep our offerings to clients, fresh and current. I also research new food trends and of course, do the all-important taste tests!
Where does your produce get distributed? Our produce goes out to a range of clients; we have a jam-packed retail space in Al Manara and send out hundreds of private orders to our home delivery customers and community collection points, every week. Our produce is available at all of our weekly Ripe Markets and we distribute to a range of corporate clients including hotels, restaurants, cafés and food concepts across the region.
What challenges do you face with farming in the UAE? The unique climate in the UAE is the biggest challenge we face. From July to September, the intense heat means most plant varieties just can’t grow, so this impacts on availability to customers. I don’t dwell on the challenges; I think they’re a great opportunity to learn and improve on our farming methods.
Andrew Paterson, who farms sheep with his wife Tracy in New Zealand, and sells through Prime Gourmet in Al Quoz.
How did you get into farming? I am the third generation of the Paterson family at Matakanui Station. I always wanted to be a farmer, like my grandfather and father before me – it is an integral part of who I am.
What do you specialise in? We run fine wool sheep and polled Hereford cattle. Predominately our specialty lies in our SILERE alpine origin merino lamb and our wool (we average 21.5 micron with the average sheep cutting over 5kgs of wool).
Is the New Zealand environment good to farm in? Yes – there is an abundance of clean and clear blue skies, clean water and excellent pastures. In our area of New Zealand (Omakau, Central Otago) we have the extremes of weather conditions, it is very hot and dry in the summer and very cold in the winter. These conditions are perfect for running fine wool sheep. Coupled with a huge land area, our sheep are very happy.
What’s a typical day for you? I meet with the staff at the beginning of each day to discuss what is happening. We then head off and do various jobs which could include stock management, shearing, fencing and agricultural development to name a few. We start early and often finish late and also work weekends as required.
What’s the best way to farm SILERE Alpine Origin Merino? In the high country where the sheep have loads of area to freely roam without threat of predators, clean fresh water and good grasses. There is a global push for meat producers to provide their animals with a good quality of life, here at Matakanui our stock are all grass fed and live in a natural state which produces first class SILERE.
What’s been your career highlight? There has been a few but this year we won, for the second year in a row, the National Golden Fleece award for our wool which was a highlight. In 2012 we went to the USA on a promotional tour with Smartwool. This was an excellent tour that allowed us to interact with customers, retailers and manufacturers. I am immensely proud of what we do and the fact that our excellent SILERE lamb that we produce is shipped all over the world and enjoyed is a huge achievement.
Where does your produce get distributed? Our SILERE alpine origin merino goes to New Zealand, the United States, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and the UAE.
Where can we find it in the UAE? Prime Gourmet, a specialist butcher in Al Quoz. We hope you like it!
Elena Kinane, managing director of Greenheart Organic Farms, is bringing fresh fruit and veg to your table.
How did you get into farming? I grew up in an eco-friendly household in Bavaria where alternative healing, homemade food and organic home-grown produce was part of everyday family life. My great aunt grew an amazing range of fruit trees, shrubs and vegetables in a 500m squared suburban garden. From a young age I used to lend a hand and she taught me some basic skills. When I first got here in the mid 1990s there wasn’t any locally grown organic produce available and the overall selection and quality in supermarkets was poor. I started growing a few tomatoes and herbs on my balcony. This slowly evolved into larger scale projects and in 2008 I launched Nazwa Organic Farm.
What do you specialise in? We do everything from sourcing and collecting genuine heirloom seeds, to soil building and planning the growing schedule, including crop rotation and companion planting. We specialise in unusual varieties that are unlikely to be found anywhere else in the Gulf region. At the last count we’ve had more than 120 different varieties of vegetables, fruit and herbs on offer. And at Greenheart we harvest freshly each morning and we only harvest what is needed each day. Once produce is harvested it starts to lose nutrients almost immediately.
Is the UAE environment good to farm in? The UAE is perceived as a hostile farming environment due to a lack of soil and water and extreme temperatures. We’ve researched extensively and formulated our own techniques to adapt to these challenges. We also invest a lot of time in saving our seeds so we can adapt them to our local growing conditions. Growing produce from our own seeds also reduces water consumption. Water conservation has long been an important topic in the UAE and is central to our operation. All the sweet water used for our plants comes from our own wells.
Where does your produce get distributed? All our produce is sold directly to the end consumer and not via third party traders so we’re in control of the entire process, from seed collection to retail. Creating a just-in-time operation makes it possible for customers to receive their produce as fresh as if they had picked it in their own back garden. In 2012 we launched our first retail outlet in Arjan, Al Barsha South and our website has lots of information and an online shop. Customers can order our set Mixed Boxes (currently we have 15 different options) or place an individual custom-made order for delivery or collection.
Finally, what is next for Greenheart? We aim to continue growing at a slow but steady pace, make more friends and find more support for what we are doing. At the same time we want to spread the word that a little of something truly good is always better than having a lot of something with little or no goodness in it.