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The panel discussion at the UAE Pavilion under the title of “Growing Food in the Desert: Agricultural Innovation” featured Dr. Tarifa Al Zaabi, Aphisith Joe Phongsavanh and Yazen Al Kodmani. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The UAE Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai has launched the Dreamer Dialogues series of panel discussions. The series, hosted onsite at the UAE Pavilion, convenes leading innovators across the country who are at the forefront of embracing the greatest challenges and opportunities that face us today.

Panelists in the six-part series are invited to share their personal journeys, expertise and insights on a range of topics, including agricultural innovation, the environment and climate change, water security, empowering youth, the creative economy and looking ahead to sustainable and scientific innovations in the UAE that are preparing us for our future.

The first panel discussion was hosted yesterday at the UAE Pavilion under the title of “Growing Food in the Desert: Agricultural Innovation” and featured three speakers, Dr. Tarifa Al Zaabi, Acting Director General, International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), Aphisith Joe Phongsavanh, Lead Project Manager, Sarya Holdings and Yazen Al Kodmani, Operations Manager, Emirates Bio Farm.

The UAE’s long track record of agricultural innovation, beginning with a need to grow food in an arid, desert environment and the relationship between food, environment and community was discussed by the panel. While food may be more accessible now than in the past, the UAE is now focused on new strategic objectives, including the creation of a sustainable domestic agricultural economy.

Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of Culture and Youth and Commissioner General of the UAE Pavilion, said: “Over the next few weeks, we are inviting inspirational dreamers to openly tackle everything from water security to the creative economy through the Dreamers Dialogue series. This is an exciting time for our country and we look forward to hearing the stories of a small sample of those who are dedicated to shaping an even better future.”

Dr. Tarifa Al Zaabi said, “The UAE has adopted a leadership role in global food security, and it is imperative that the Agritech innovations being advanced here in the region are scaled and deployed worldwide to facilitate environmental conservation and food security. How can we make sure we have a better formula, that we can develop human capital to create innovation for the future - I am excited about the way forward. In addition to forward-thinking policies and world-class innovations, it is fantastic that the UAE is providing unparalleled platforms on which this topic can be discussed, such as the Food for Future Summit, Expo 2020, and of course, the Dreamer Dialogue series at the UAE Pavilion.”

Joe Phongsavanh said, “Ensuring we are taking the necessary steps towards achieving food security involves every part of the ecosystem – from policymakers to businesses and the community. Just like innovative farming, consumer education comes from building a network of support that includes policies, government, retail, and the whole ecosystem that need to come together to educate the children and the parents. When we create community awareness, our responsibility is to use language that is relatable and easily digestible to the public. That’s why it is important to have discussions about this topic to ensure the challenge and solutions such as hydroponic vertical farming, are accessible and understood by all, and hopefully, inspire future agricultural entrepreneurs in the UAE to follow in our footsteps just as we have of those who came before us.”

Yazen Al Kodmani said, “We have big challenges when it comes to sustainability. We need to talk about different solutions, sustainability and food systems need to be localized. At Emirates BioFarm, we know that in order to sustain the growth of the UAE’s organic food industry we need increased consumer buy-in and demand. We do this by running educational programmes and agritourism activities, and I hope that by taking part in this important discussion we can ensure more people learn more about the methods and techniques currently being explored to ensure we have a thriving food sector for generations to come.”

The UAE Pavilion is a cornerstone of Expo 2020, designed by renowned architect, Santiago Calatrava to take guests on a multi-sensory, immersive experience focused on human, humble and inspiring storytelling of the UAE’s culture, values, heritage and prospects.