Dr Nuha Mustafa, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine, UAE University at Gulf News Edufair 2022 in Dubai
Dr Nuha Mustafa, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine, UAE University during her talk at Gulf News Edufair in Dubai on Sunday Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: Exciting career opportunities are awaiting students in agriculture and veterinary sciences in line with the UAE’s focus on ensuring food security, Gulf News Edufair heard on Sunday in Dubai.

Unlike the traditional concept of using tools to dig fields and watering crops, agriculture of the future uses technological skills and requires innovative research, an expert from the College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine, UAE University, said during the concluding day of the three-day Gulf News Edufair.

“We are the only higher education institution in the UAE that teaches agriculture and veterinary medicine in the country. Our programmes are aligned with the UAE’s priorities,” said Dr Nuha Mustafa, assistant dean of Student Affairs at the College.

Food security

One of the main priorities of the country is food security, to ensure availability, affordability, safety and quality of food, she said.

Having jumped from 31st to 21st position in the global food security index, the UAE now aims to become number one in food security by 2050.

“We want to produce the calibre, the workforce that will help the country reach the number one goal by 2050,” said Dr Nuha.

‘I drove tractors’

“When I studied agriculture, I drove tractors… I planted the soil. That does not sound like an exciting career for our youth. Now, anything that’s away from their phones or outside in the sun is not the place they want to be.”

However, she said, students will have a bright future if they are tech-savvy and are ready to work on innovative projects in agricultural technology, agri-business, food science and veterinary medicine.

The areas of focus by the government include reduction of food waste, aquaculture, prevention of zoonotic diseases, development of novel foods etc.

“So we need to talk about different sources of food because our planet has become strained by how many people live in it and how we live in another thing.”

Imitation milk, cultured meat

She explained the university’s research projects on producing alternative proteins such as ‘imitation milk’ produced in test tubes using microorganisms and making real dairy products like cheese and yoghurt without using cows. Cellular agriculture that helps create cultured meat is another exciting area of research.

Such innovative projects using future technology help tackle several challenges faced when people depend on cows for protein, Dr Mustafa pointed out.

“The cycle of imitation milk is 100 times more land-efficient, 20 times more time-efficient, 25 times more feedstock-efficient and it is 10 times more water-efficient.”

Currently, the university is also studying the impact of gravity on date seeds and different characteristics of palm trees by comparing the samples sent to the space with the UAE’s first astronaut Hezza Al Mansouri and the ones available on earth.

Employing vertical farming, using drones for aerial monitoring of crops and robots for harvesting plants in the absence of human resources and using Internet of Things for precision farming and livestock monitoring are some of the other new aspects of agriculture that students will learn.

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Opportunities galore

The UAE is set to host the climate change conference COP 28 and investing billions of dirhams to fight climate change and for tech-enabled farms. The various projects being launched need employees with related educational qualifications.

“They can also work in municipalities, regulatory offices, agriculture and safety agencies, private companies, food, manufacturing and processing, companies etc.,” she said.

A large number of private farms also offers career opportunities for students of veterinary medicines, she added.

The UAE University in Al Ain offers undergraduate and graduate programmes in Integrative Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine.

Programmes offered

Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Resource Management

Bachelor of Science in Marine Fisheries and Animal Science

Bachelor of Science in Horticulture

Bachelor of Science in Food Science

Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine

Master of Science in Horticulture

Doctor of Philosophy in Horticultural Sciences

Doctor of Philosophy in Food Science and Technology