Crop One, Emirate open ‘world’s largest vertical farm’ in Dubai

Crop One Holdings and Emirates Flight Catering announced this week they opened Emirates Crop One, what they say is “the world’s largest vertical farm.”

The over 330,000-square-foot facility is located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates near Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central. It has the capacity to produce over 2 million pounds of leafy greens annually.

The facility got its start in 2018 when Crop One, an indoor vertical farming company, and Emirates Flight, the airline Emirates catering arm, signed a $40 million joint venture to build Emirates Crop One. AgFunder reported the $40 million was a majority debt-funded.

Dubbed ECO 1, the farm uses 95% less water than field-grown produce and is guaranteed an output of three tons per day, according to the companies. Passengers on Emirates and other airlines will be able to eat the leafy greens, which include lettuces, arugula, mixed salad greens, and spinach, on their flights starting this month.

Those local to the United Arab Emirates will be able to buy the produce at stores under the Bustanica brand. The greens require no pre-washing and are grown without pesticides, herbicides or chemicals.

“We are proud to bring Crop One’s best-in-class technology to this innovative food production facility alongside our joint venture partner,” said Craig Ratajczyk, CEO at Crop One., in a written statement.” ECO 1 will address growing supply chain challenges and food security issues, while introducing millions of new consumers to the benefits of vertically farmed produce. It’s our mission to cultivate a sustainable future to meet global demand for fresh, local food, and this new farm is the manifestation of that commitment. This new facility serves as a model for what’s possible around the globe.”

This is Crop One’s second vertical farm after its flagship facility in Millis, Massachusetts.

Emirates Crop One joins vertical farms being built all over the world. In May, Bowery Farms opened its vertical farm in Pennsylvania. Though it did not give a size for the facility, my colleague Brian Heater wrote that it was suspected to be 156,000 square feet. Earlier this year, Upward Farms was planning a 250,000-square-foot vertical farm, also in Pennsylvania, that was poised to open in mid-2023.

Australian startup SafetyCulture nabs $800 million valuation on $35.5 million round

SafetyCulture, the Australian enterprise software company that manages security and compliance checks at companies around the world, has raised $35.5 million at an $800 million valuation in its latest round of funding.

Nearly half of the new money was meant to provide liquidity to employee shareholders who had been with the company over three years, according to a person familiar with the transaction.

The round was led by the Australian growth capital investor TDM Growth Partners, with participation from other local Australian investors like Blackbird Ventures, Skip Capital (the firm created by Atlassian co-founder and co-chief executive, Scott Farquhar and helmed by his wife, Kim Jackson) and former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife.

In all the company has raised over $100 million for its compliance software.

“This is an exciting milestone for us to achieve as a company, especially during uncertain times like these,” SafetyCulture founder and CEO Luke Anear said in a statement. “We’re particularly happy about giving employees the opportunity to sell some of their equity as a reward for all their hard work and continued loyalty.”

Over 26,000 companies in 85 countries use the iAuditor app to make safety checks every year. The company just crossed the cash-flow positive threshold and has operations in Kansas City, Sydney, Townsville, Manchester and Manila.

The new funding will be used to continue the company’s product development as it looks to move from being a security and safety checklist to a more robust collaboration and communication platform, the company said.

“Today’s announcement continues what has been 12 months of hyper growth for SafetyCulture’s Americas headquarters in Kansas City,” said Bob Butler, General Manager of SafetyCulture Americas. ” The North American market currently makes up around 40% of our customers and this significant injection of capital enables us to accelerate product development for items customers need, along with the talent and marketing needed to scale our business to serve more customers and have a greater impact on safety and quality for workers all around the US.”

In light of the COVID-19 epidemic, the company said it would offer its premium safety audit product and other features free for six months to healthcare, emergency, education, and volunteer organizing companies and on-profits.

SafetyCulture’s current customers include: Emirates, Coca-Cola, GE, IKEA, Unilever, BHP Billiton and Accor. SafetyCulture.

Qatar Airways adds 10K seats while other airlines draw down their schedules

While most domestic and international airlines are cutting thousands of flights from their schedules due to the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, Qatar Airways is taking another route. The airline is actually stepping up some of its flying again, after also announcing some cuts in the last few days, by adding 10,000 extra seats back to its network.

It’s doing so by adding extra flights to Paris, Perth and Dublin from its hub in Doha, and by using its A380 fleet for flights to Frankfurt, London Heathrow and Perth. In addition, it’s adding charter service to Europe from the U.S. and Asia.

Unlike other airlines, Qatar still serves 75 destinations, including to the U.S., though the airline acknowledges that this could quickly change as some countries adopt tighter restrictions.

In many ways, Qatar’s decision seems counterintuitive, especially given that even its local competitors like Emirates have cut most of their schedules and many U.S. airlines now only serve a handful of international destinations. But Qatar argues that its mission right now is to “reunite stranded passengers with their loved ones.” The company’s data backs this up, with planes to the UK, France and Germany leaving with about 80 percent of their seats sold, but outbound flights only being 36 percent full. The airline says it flew about 100,000 passengers in the last seven days.

The demand here clearly is from passengers trying to get home. That likely won’t last and Qatar, too, will end up shutting down more of its routes. But for the time being, it’s one of the few airlines that are still offering flights on many of these routes, something it can do because its hub in Doha also remains open for transit passengers. Emirates and Ethiad, for example, would likely keep some of its flights going, too, but their hub airports are now closed and other major hubs like Singapore and Hong Kong have banned all transit passengers.

Emirates will suspend most passenger flights by March 25

Emirates, the world’s largest airline by international traffic, today briefly announced on Twitter and its own website that it would halt all passenger flights by March 25 but then reversed course and said that it would still fly to 13 destinations, including the U.S., UK, Japan, Australia and Canada.

It’s a sign of the times that a) nobody would blink if Emirates had actually announced that it was ceasing all passenger operations and b) that there would be confusion around this given how much the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the airline business into sudden chaos.

“Having received requests from governments & customers to support repatriation of travellers, Emirates will continue to operate passenger and cargo flights to few countries until further notice, as long as borders remain open, and there is demand,” the airline said in a later statement.

Like most of its competitors, the airline will continue its usual cargo operations. Passenger flights, though, will only continue to leave for the UK, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, South Africa, U.S. and Canada. Before this decision, Emirates operated flights to 161 cities in 85 countries.

In the U.S., many airlines are facing decisions. United, for example, announced two days ago that it will reduce its international flying by 95% for April, leaving only half a dozen international flights on its schedule through May. American and Delta have made similar cuts, though theirs are not quite as drastic. And all this could still change, given that virtually every airline now likes to say that this situation is “dynamic.”

Reaction Engines’ Mach 5 engine is just the tip of the new aerospace boom

Imagine a hypersonic passenger aircraft that would cut the journey time between London and New York to around two hours. At Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound, the aircraft would complete a trip across the Atlantic in around 120 minutes. Mach 5 is more than twice as fast as the cruising speed of Concorde and over 50% faster than the SR-71 Blackbird – the world’s fastest jet-engine powered aircraft. A flight across the Pacific would take roughly three hours. Flight times from London to Sydney could be 80% shorter. Who needs Elon Musk?

Reaching these speeds would require an aircraft engine that has never previously existed. But last week, the world got a glimpse of a new future via a project which has been germinating for 30 years.

Reaction Engines was founded in 1989 by three propulsion engineers from Rolls Royce: Alan Bond, Richard Varvill and John Scott Scott. Their idea was that in order for an engine to reach hypersonic speeds, the air going into it would have to be rapidly cooled, otherwise the engine would melt. Reaction’s breakthrough was inventing a “precooler” or heat exchanger which can take the air down to minus 150 degrees centigrade in less than a 20th of a second.

These ultra-lightweight “heat exchangers” would enable aircraft to fly over five times the speed of sound in the atmosphere. Thus the SABRE – Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine – was born. The Sabre engine “breathes” air to make 20 per cent of the journey to orbit, before switching to rocket mode to complete the trip.

Last week, Reaction Engines passed a significant milestone. It successfully tested its innovative precooler at airflow temperature conditions representing Mach 5.

The ground-based test at the Colorado Air and Space Port in the US, saw the precooler successfully operate at temperatures of 420ᵒC (~788ᵒF) – matching the thermal conditions corresponding to Mach 3.3 flight.

Reaction Engines

But this technology wouldn’t just be applicable to hypersonic flight. The precooler technology, developed by Reaction Engines, would significantly enhance the performance of existing jet engine technology, along with applications in automotive, aerospace, energy and industrial processes. Reaction Engines has attracted development funding from the British government, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the European Space Agency. It’s also raised over £100m from public and private sources and has secured investment from BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Boeing’s venture capital arm HorizonX. Reaction is expected to start building and testing a demonstrator engine next year.

The success of Reaction Engines to date is a sign that the ‘AerospaceTech’ sector is now booming. It is most certainly not alone.

Last month, Boeing and the UK government launched a £2m accelerator program to look for new innovations in this area. Boeing’s HorizonX is backing the initiative.