27 February 2017
“When it comes to social innovation, it is important to have first-hand experience of the culture. This is what we did this morning. At 8:30am, StackFarm was on the way to one of the most successful farms in the UAE, and the first one to leverage a crude form of hydroponics. Billkhair connected us to his friend Abdulaziz – his uncle owned the farm. They drove us to the outskirts of Ras Al Khaima. Ras Al Khaima has noticeably more fertile land in comparison to the other Emirates. On the way, Billkhair answered our questions on traditions, family dynamics, and the need for a technology like ours in the middle east. For example, in Emirati families, the Patriarch assumes the position of head of family. His first son follows suit in the next generation, while the first grandson is named after the Patriarch.
We arrived at the farm, and Abdulaziz kindly took us on a tour; this was the farm he had played in as a child. Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Corn were the only vegetables being grown at this time. Tomatoes and Corn were planted in the soil, alongside a tubing system that continuously delivered water to these plants in a drip method. Cucumbers, on the other hand, were grown in a greenhouse, using crude hydroponic technology. These seeds were germinated in pots of coco peed, solid nutrition, and some amount of soil. Water travelled through a piping system to each pot, with excess collected in a tube below. This tube recycled the used water through a filter, which was fed again to the plants. Although this was innovative engineering, it is not the most efficient method to grow large scale produce. We unanimously agreed that StackFarm would exponentially increase the rate of production per square meter for the farm.
After the farm visit, we headed over to (my favourite Arabic restaurant!) Zaatar and Zeit, for a quick brunch, before we resumed project work at CUD. At 3pm, we took the Metro to the Emirates Tower station to Dubai International Financial Centre. This required a little legwork and resourcefulness to find the way. We met with Mohammad CEO of Axis Strategic Partners. StackFarm’s elevator pitch was well-received, and Mohammad asked great homework questions, such as the cost for production for StackFarm versus traditional farming.
We returned back to CUD through the Metro, and began preparations for our presentation on Wednesday. In the past two days, StackFarm had slowly evolved from a project to a viable business, and we intended to continue the momentum. Towards the end, we had an RGIC 2017 full team meeting, during which we exchanged constructive criticism for the teams. I found this to be a great exercise and took relevant notes.
It was finally time to call it a day, and we headed back to our rooms in Discovery Gardens. For dinner, I suggested we go to Maharaja Bhog, a nearby Vegetarian Thali restaurant. Their food, customer service, and prices were unparalleled, and I we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Looking forward to another productive day!”
– Lakshmi Menon