“The past months have been an experience with many lessons learned,” said Her Excellency Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri, Minister of State for Food Security at the UAE, during the Agritech – Enhancing food security in the UAE, today. While Her Excellency addressed the keynotes of the webinar, she later elaborated on the UAE’s food supply hurdles highlighted by the pandemic and the obstacles it has overcome.
“Our national food security strategy served as a road map through this time. Agtech being an essential plank to this strategy, enabled us to increase domestic food production while minimizing the produce of water.” Food security forms a nexus with water security and energy, she noted, therefore it’s essential to form a sustainable balance.
The main focus of the event was how vertical farming is creating new opportunities for investors and developers alike. The webinar looked at the UAE's food security strategies and the central role of innovative data technologies and AI in ensuring greater resilience in food security.
The agtech sector supports UAE’s food security agenda by reducing dependency on the global food chains, being one of the key drivers to enhance food security. According to Her Excellency (HE), it’s transforming the country’s growing CEA landscape, allowing local markets and retailers to offer their customers a wider range of fresh produce grown in the UAE. “One of our biggest agtech success stories has been the huge growth of our aquaculture sector, which is helping to meet the strong seafood demand.”
Her Excellency Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri
Due to government-supported accelerators, the agtech sector has been given a boost over the past few years. The private sector, according to HE, is always quick to respond and collaborate, seeing the fruits of these engagements. She noted that disruptive qualities are shaking up old and inefficient systems and creating versatile, flexible and more resilient ag methods that are the future for global food security. “There’s still a lot to do before we transform our food systems together, to more sustainable ones,” she added.
Later on, Richard Thompson (editorial director at MEED) and Henry Gordon-Smith (CEO at Agritecture) elaborated on the key industry- and tech trends that are shaping the food security sector in the upcoming years.
The best place to start is investing in youth, said Henry, explaining how they can be useful in agriculture, otherwise how will we get a sustainable future. For long-term results, a focus has to be laid on training and education explaining ‘what the key steps and methods are’. “One of the key differences now is that we can do a lot more with less. There are a number of different ways, growing alternative crops, that can be developed and marketed into the community working with retail and marketing partners to achieve this,” Henry noted.
It begins with college- and institution programs, according to Henry, helping to find a balance between business, climate challenges, agriculture operations and technology to develop solutions for the future. In this way we can localize solutions and help society being more effective on its own, yet, technology plays a big role here. “There’s still a lot of innovation coming and there’s potential to green the desert with agriculture.”
Henry notes that many things are happening in terms of educating growers. Still, there’s very little education available in the UAE, rather than workshops and specialized events. However, there is a lot of engagement with youth and there are some institutions that are developing meaningful research.
“Nonetheless, we’re in need of a more connected, comprehensive approach embedded into the free zones. In these zones, international companies can bring in their technology which can be passed on to the Emirates.” As they don’t see their selves as the farmers, says Henry, but rather as farm operators or executives, it’ll be a combination of learning some of the best practices in agriculture and business education that already exists.