The UAE is striving to become a hub for food knowledge and technology as it addresses food security woes within and outside the country, a minister said on Wednesday.
Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, Minister of State for Food and Water Security, said on Wednesday that with the current effects of climate change and the growth of global population, there could eventually be a 60 per cent rise in demand for food. Food waste and food loss also remain a challenge.
“We are striving to make sure that we are not just continuing our journey to become a major hub for food trade, but also transforming our thoughts and ideas to become a hub of knowledge and technology for the food and agricultural sector,” she said during a press conference on the global FoodTech challenge.
Several initiatives have been rolled out to build this knowledge hub, she said, and the FoodTech challenge is one of them.
“It is basically kick starting the global community to help us explore and find new ideas that are innovative, sustainable and have technology at its base to be able to solve some of the pressing issues that we are having in this transformation,” Almheiri said.
Out of 437 submissions from 68 countries, four FoodTech Challenge winners were named. They will share a $1-million (Dh3.67 million) prize and become eligible for the Abu Dhabi-based Catalyst Accelerator Programme.
FoodTech Challenge to help UAE achieve targets
The UAE is a water-scarce country with less than five per cent land suitable for farming, and a national strategy has been in place to overcome such a challenge and ensure that there will always be enough food sources locally.
“We have targets to achieve. For example, we want to make sure that by 2021 we are increasing our local food production by 15 per cent on certain food items. We want to increase the yield improvement by 30 per cent in 2021. We also have long-term objectives as well,” Almheiri said.
The Global FoodTech Challenge, she explained, could help the country achieve and even exceed these targets.
“We are getting the global community to put their minds together... We are empowering them with this FoodTech Challenge to come up with ideas and help us think about how to grow food in hot conditions like what we have here in the UAE, so they can help us and the rest of the global community,” the minister said.
The goal also goes beyond sustainable food production, she added. Processing, logistics, food waste and food loss are all part of the equation.
“We are looking at a holistic approach and by engaging the community, we are getting them to think more about respecting food and respecting natural resources used to make food,” she said.
“For the UAE, it is not about looking at food security today, but also the future.”
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