UAE - The Year 50
The opportunities are unlimited and we are confident that we will play a pivotal role in this all-important mission to ensure food security for a better tomorrow Image Credit: Seyyed Llata/Gulf News

The year 2020 was a wake-up call for humanity. With COVID-19 ravaging lives and disrupting global supply chains, it was a grim reminder of the fragility of worldwide interdependencies; my interest in one such critical area is food security and technology-driven agriculture.

Desert is a harsh and inhospitable terrain; until sometime back it was considered implausible to do sustainable agriculture. Thanks to the determination and vision of the country’s leaders who saw the potential of new technology, it is today possible to successfully grow food in the desert.

The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan — the country’s Founding Father, envisioned transforming the dry, arid desert land of the UAE into green pastures. His vision became a reality over 50 years of persistence and hard work.

The legacy continues, when as recently as May 2021, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched the first phase of Food Technology Valley — a development project to promote innovation in agriculture to achieve food security.

Food Technology valley
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced the first-phase launch of the Food Tech Valley - the latest of Dubai's specialised cities which will focus on food security and trade.

Future of agriculture

The future of agriculture is closely linked to that of food security and it is a matter of global interest — it is one of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by The United Nations, its mission is to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”.

I believe ‘humanising technology’ is the answer to resolve many of the world’s challenges, which means making it relevant to the real-life scenarios today and tomorrow. This includes ensuring global food security and eliminating the scourge of hunger.

This quest to find answers to tomorrow’s challenges today led me to establish my start-up — The Futurist Company, driven by the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to be always committed to excellence and build the future starting today and always ahead of other nations aspirations.

It is important to mention, that, while the Fourth Industrial Revolution is enabling rapid transformation and growth with advanced technologies using Blockchain, internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, and renewable energies, among others, there needs to be an equal emphasis on reducing food wastage by sensitising people about its ill effects.

As per the World Economic Forum, “Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 will require food systems that are inclusive, sustainable, efficient, nutritious and healthy.”

ADIO AgTech incentive programme
The ‘Innovation Programme’ by the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) expanded its AgTech incentive pool to a total of Dh2 billion ($545 million) in 2020, to accelerate opportunities for investors in the emirate.

Last year, ADIO partnered with seven agriculture innovators, under its AgTech programme, to establish R&D and operational facilities and develop cutting-edge projects in the emirate. The partnerships have led to the rapid advancement of Abu Dhabi’s agriculture ecosystem.

Making the desert green again

I am excited about the future. Our project ‘GAIA’, which is a smart Agritech incubators, is designed to be a bold example of harnessing technology to make the desert green again.

Using technology from Nasa, our ‘GAIA’ incubators are AI-driven powerful, scalable tools that can improve productivity yields up to 30% — using self-sustaining automated technology, without using hazardous chemicals, in a controlled indoor environment without the need for electricity and water.

It is as sophisticated as it can get in food technology, and it is now here in the UAE.

We are ready on our journey for the next 50 years and beyond, as the UAE is well positioned to be a world leader in the field as described in His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, “The UAE’s food trade exceeds AED100 billion annually.

Our country is a global food logistics hub, and we will work to create a nurturing environment for agribusinesses to develop new farming technologies and enhance our future food security.”

I believe the opportunities are unlimited and we are confident that we will play a pivotal role in this all-important mission to ensure food security for a better tomorrow.

Al Anoud Al Hashmi is an Emirati Entrepreneur. She is the founder and CEO, The Futurist Company.