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Dubai-born CAFU unveils drone technology with planting mechanism

by TECHx Media about a year ago in tech news
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Months on from announcing the Sustainability Deal – Dubai-born CAFU has taken big strides in its strategy towards becoming carbon neutral, starting with the ground-breaking Ghaf Tree Seed Project to plant a million Ghaf seeds in the UAE desert to combat climate change.

The pioneering technology and car services company made two major announcements at a press conference held at drone training institution Sanad Academy- It has completed two rounds of planting with over 10,000 seeds in the desert this year using its cutting-edge drone technology and first-of-its-kind planting mechanism designed by the CAFU engineers in the region.

Last year, the team at CAFU went through a rigorous R&D process to test optimal germination of the Ghaf seed in the harsh desert landscape, which shed light on certain requirements such as the need for a seedball mixture with the right ratio of nutrients to help the seeds germinate, and that these seedballs needed to be planted to a depth of 1 centimetre below the ground.

CAFU’s team of engineers and technology experts have designed and developed a pioneering in-house pressurised air mechanism built into the drone, which shoots the seedballs to the required depth, while also geotagging the location to track its progress. So far, the team have undergone two rounds of planting in the Mleiha Desert and expect germination over the coming months.

“Our motivation, since the time we launched in 2018, has been to set convenience in motion to make life better for our customers and residents, not just through our services, but through our ethos and values. This is why we set out the ‘CAFU Sustainability Deal’ last year, to act as a responsible business by taking real steps forward in our sustainability agenda to reduce the impact on our environment and the world we live in”, said Rashid Al Ghurair, Founder and CEO, CAFU.

“The Ghaf Tree Project, which forms the central pillar of our sustainability deal, is very close to my heart and I am happy to see the impact we are making on the UAE through this project”, he added.

Leading the press conference, CAFU’s Sustainability and Community Manager Nabra Al Busaidi said, ‘It is a real privilege to lead this work by CAFU that will have such a positive impact on the environment. I can proudly say that the progress we have made and the support we have received from both government and private entities has been invaluable’.

‘Today, we have accomplished a major milestone through the drone-tech powered planting, and we are excited to use our rich findings and technology to move to the next stage where we scale this project to explore other native UAE seed types. And the best part is, this is only the beginning’, she added.

Advancing desert planting through strategic partnerships

With sustainability and climate action high on the UAE agenda, CAFU has partnered with key strategic organizations in the UAE, all with the shared agenda of advancing solutions for positive impact on the environment and by doing so, advancing their research knowledge in the UAE.

CAFU announces MoU with the UAE University (UAEU) to scale findings to explore other types of native plants suited for the UAE landscape:

CAFU and UAE University announced at today’s press conference that they will soon be signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to partner on research to help optimize and create a self- sustaining seedball for outdoor survival which could lead to long-lasting effects for how we successfully grow trees and plants across the desert. CAFU and UAEU also agreed to explore working together on a new strategy to scale these findings to explore working with other UAE native desert plants using same seedball methodology. Both organisations signalled their intent to instigate the research project that would conclude with an in-depth research report published containing their findings.

‘As an institution that shapes young, bright minds to become future change-makers, we are delighted to be working with a company like CAFU which uses its resources and technological know-how to do good in the world. We believe this will be an immeasurably fruitful partnership, as we set out on our journey of R&D that will enable significant progress towards combating climate change’ said Dr Mohammed Abdul Mohsen Ali Al Yafei, Chair and Associate Professor of the Integrative Agriculture Department at UAE University.

Other important partnerships include:

  • Sanad Academy, the UAE’s first Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) training and certification facility, have supported CAFU by providing an area and drone pilot for drone testing throughout the testing phase.
  • The Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA) have supported CAFU since November 2019 by providing land in the Mleiha Desert – Green Belt conservation area, for drone planting.
  • The Department of Civil Aviation Sharjah are the key sponsors for all of CAFU’s drone flights for the year.
  • The UAE Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure have provided CAFU with land and other resources in AlDhaid, Sharjah, to carry out manual seedball planting during its R&D phase.

Advancing the ‘CAFU Sustainability Deal’

CAFU has made a series of advancements in its initiatives towards the Sustainability Deal. On top of the list was the creation of a new role of Sustainability and Community Manager last year, to drive this strategy. Since then, Nabra Al Busaidi has led the company to a series of accomplishments and projects in addition to the Ghaf Tree Project:

Winning big at the Gulf Sustainability and CSR Awards – CAFU won the prestigious ‘Gold Innovation in Sustainable Technologies’ at the Gulf Sustainability Awards in October last year, for its ground-breaking work on the Ghaf Tree Project and what this enables for the future of climate change.

Working towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – last year, CAFU announced that it aligned itself with UN SDG 13 on Climate Action, as well their involvement in the UAE SDG compact accelerator program to help them achieve this goal. The team are now over six weeks into the program in a group alongside other front runners such as Majid Al Futtaim and DP World, and have taken a precision-focus view to setting targets by focusing on 3 benchmarks within UN SDG Goal 13:

1. Science-based emissions and reduction in line with a 1.5°C pathway

2. Land degradation neutrality including zero deforestation

3. 100% resource recovery, with all materials and products recovered and recycled or reused at end of use

CAFU has announced a series of initiatives in line with these targets through:

Sustainability driving business decisions

CAFU is currently in discussions with Ecylex exploring a strategy for optimizing the recycling of plastic bottles, paper, wooden pallets, dirty engine oil and contaminated rags (hazardous material), particularly on how it will be processed with the aim to reduce, reuse, and recycle and contribute to the circular economy. The company will also start campaigns at the Depot to raise awareness and incentivise staff to take part in the recycling initiatives.

In addition, the team are working towards a series of employee initiatives and CSR partnerships including calling cards and iftar boxes for CAFU Pilots and blue-collar workers, as well as a desert clean up program, and a planting program for CAFU staff who will spend the day planting mangroves in Ajman’s mangrove restoration area, among other initiatives.

CAFU has also been invited to join Dubai Chambers Sustainability Network and will apply for the Dubai Chamber CSR label in the coming months.

‘As a responsible business, we are proud to be using our technology for good in the UAE, and we are excited at the upcoming partnerships and initiatives that are set to fuel our efforts towards lowering carbon emissions and reaching our goal of carbon neutrality’ said Nabra.

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