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Dubai: Dubai will build a new business park to host specialised agricultural firms as the Middle East's business hub pushes for food security.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has launched the ‘Food Tech Valley’ a new initiative that seeks to triple the UAE’s food production.

The launch was attended by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai; HH Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and First Deputy Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai; Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Group and President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority; Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Media Council; Mohammed Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs; Mariam Hareb Almheiri, Minister of State for Food and Water Security; Khalifa Saeed Sulaiman, Chairman of Protocols for the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE; and HE Hesham Abdullah Al Qassim, CEO of Wasl Asset Management Group.

The initiative aims to create an integrated modern city that will serve as a hub for future clean tech-based food and agricultural products and an incubator for researchers, entrepreneurs, startups and industry experts involved in developing solutions that have the potential to shape the future of the food industry.

The new city will spearhead innovation and leverage collaborative networks to lead regional transformation and export knowledge on sustainable food systems globally.

It will support the use of technologies and applied research in food processing and agriculture and apply modern farming techniques – such as vertical farming, aquaculture and hydroponics - to accelerate self-sufficiency in fresh food produce and reduce wastage of resources.

“Food Tech Valley is part of a series of projects that aim to sustain the UAE’s food, water and agricultural systems in line with the National Food Security Strategy. Food and medicine represent strategic sectors that help us ensure a prosperous and sustainable future for the next generation,” said Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Food Tech Valley is the outcome of a partnership between the Ministry of Food and Water Security and Wasl Properties to explore urban planning of future smart and food independent cities. Equipped with cutting-edge technologies, Food Tech Valley aims to achieve the objectives of the National Food Security Strategy 2051 and support a diversified knowledge-based economy.

Advanced Farms

The Food Tech Valley will host vertical farms, an advanced smart food logistics hub, Research & Development (R&D) facilities and a marketplace. Driven by a circular economy model, the city will bring together companies, investors and researchers in a sustainable agribusiness ecosystem to develop the latest aquaculture and hydroponics technologies. Over 300 varieties of crops will be produced in the new city using modern farming techniques and the latest agri technologies.

Through an innovation-based approach to food, the new site aims to enhance local food production, diversify investments and advance research to align and influence future food trends and preferences. It will act as a global hub for start-ups, SMEs and international companies with a wide range of expertise to exchange knowledge in the food industry.

Optimal timing

Mariam Almheiri, Minister of State for Food and Water Security, stressed that the launch of the initial phase of the Food Tech Valley is vitally important at the present time when the world needs strategic projects to achieve food self-sufficiency, while ensuring sustainability and conservation of resources. Highlighting that the initiative translates the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to develop projects that can shape the future and build a knowledge economy based on innovation, Almheiri said the Food Tech Valley project will establish the UAE’s position as a global laboratory for the latest technologies in innovation-based food security.

"The Food Tech Valley project represents an instrumental stride towards enhancing food security and will serve as a global destination for expertise in the entire food ecosystem. It will also be an economic zone, which is particularly significant considering that the size of the AgTech market is projected to grow from $13.5 billion to $22 billion over the next four years. The project is part of our efforts to achieve our strategic national goals with respect to food security, as it constitutes an incubator for advanced farms - including indoor and vertical farms - with more than 60% of the project’s space allocated to these activities.”

Economic, trade and research

Hesham Abdullah Al Qassim, CEO of Wasl Asset Management Group, said, “the Food Tech Valley is a state-of-the-art economic, trade and research zone in terms of its innovative ideas, advanced infrastructure, specialised role in supporting smart future societies, and diversity of options it provides to creative entrepreneurs, investors, startups, and small, medium and large companies in the food processing and production ecosystem.”

“The project provides an integrated legislative framework that facilitates new food product development and access to the market. Its competitive incentives and services enable investors to utilise local and global demand for the UAE brand and leverage Dubai’s global commercial and trade networks to achieve the desired growth,” he added.

Basic principles

The city is established on the basic priniciples of establishing flexible legislative frameworks for the food industry, leveraging joint collaborations and global trade networks to reach markets, and providing immediate and comprehensive services for food processing companies in Dubai at competitive costs.

Food Tech Valley will be a vital hub for applied research and development to support farmers and food production companies in the UAE and around the world.

It will develop new solutions to solve multiple challenges facing the food sector including weak adoption of modern agri-technologies, lack of skilled workforce in agriculture and low competitiveness of local products.

Four clusters

Food Tech Valley will be home to four main clusters: agricultural technology and engineering, a food innovation centre, R&D facilities, and an advanced smart food logistics hub.

Agricultural Technology and Engineering Cluster

The agricultural technology and engineering cluster will have a vertical farm that will employ the latest food technologies to grow year-round vital crops for future smart cities. The cluster will also be centred on developing innovative projects in bioengineering, automation, robotics and artificial intelligence and supporting capacity building across the food ecosystem.

Food Innovation Centre

The food innovation centre will provide an integrated agri-business ecosystem to nurture promising ideas and support start-ups and entrepreuners. The cluster, which will have a specialised food factory to produce new foods and second-generation restaurants (restuarants 2.0), will explore a futuristic model that applies the highest standards of sustainability and production sufficiency to reduce consumption and wastage of resouces.

Research and Development Facilities

The third cluster will have world-class R&D facilities to train food specialists and support food establishments. The facilities will explore the use of agri-robotics to maximise yields and drought-resistant crops. Specialised researchers will also explore the application of 3D printing in algae cultivation and alternative protein production.

The R&D facilities will also study the use of artificial intelligence to monitor, analyse and manage agricultural crops, and detect environmental impact and climate change. They will contribute to global food security research efforts by exploring successful saline agriculture, nutritional genomics, agricultural mechanisation and the use of drones in food production.

Advanced Smart Food Logistics hub

The fourth cluster will feature a fourth-generation food storage system that provides smart and automated logistical storage services.

The comprehensive smart storage system will apply blockchain technologies and big data in sorting, transporting and distributing various food products. It will track food quality, origin, components, processing methods, storage and delivery to ensure efficiency of food supply chains.

Attracting Investment

As an economic zone, the Food Tech Valley is a valuable addition to the UAE’s 1,250 legislations that support agriculture and food production sectors in ensuring food safety, storage and transport.

With food and beverage investments in the UAE currently totalling AED62 billion, the Food Tech Valley will contribute to attracting further local and foreign direct investments in promising projects that help diversify the national economy and develop the supply chain and logistic services.