Opinion and Editorial

Food security could be an outcome of Abraham Accords

Eliran Elimelech
Filed on July 14, 2021

Necessity is the mother of invention, and few places exemplify that better than Israel.

Since the signing of the Abraham Accords, we have worked closely with our counterparts in the UAE to better understand what value our two nations can create together. One of the most impactful fields we identified is food security. We believe that by combining Israel’s rich history of AgriFood-Tech innovation with the UAE’s deep commitment to ensuring sustainable food independence, we can produce solutions that will benefit not only our two countries but the entire region and potentially the world.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and few places exemplify that better than Israel. During the second half of the 20th century, the young, isolated, and natural resource-poor country was forced to innovate in order to provide its residents with even the semblance of food security in the form of locally grown produce. Its landmark achievement was the invention of drip irrigation, a novel way to water and fertilise crops, using minimal resources that went on to revolutionise the meaning of the term arable land. Later on, near the turn of the century, came wide-scale desalinisation, which finally freed the country from water scarcity concerns.

But innovation did not stop there. The challenge of overcoming scarcity was replaced with the challenge of attempting to achieve sustainability. Israel has cultivated a thriving AgriFood-Tech ecosystem, home to more than 400 Deep-Tech companies providing a spectrum of solutions, helping to increase yields, reduce the use of harmful chemicals and improve the quality and variety of crops. Over the past three decades, Israel’s agricultural capabilities have been further augmented by cutting edge technologies like computer vision, artificial intelligence, robotics, advanced communications, traceability solutions, and biotechnology, producing an ecosystem that stretches far beyond the country’s narrow borders and offering revolutionary solutions that are valuable to everyone — even those located in more generous climates.

However, as the UAE Minister of State for Food and Water Security, Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Al Mheiri, has said food security is reliant not only on better food production but also on securing the food supply chain. As the global coronavirus crisis has shown, borders can quickly close, and supply routes easily dry up. Israeli companies are employing advanced solutions to track food throughout the entire supply chain and monitor its condition as it makes its way across the globe. Varcode, for example, has developed a dynamic barcode and dashboard for up-to-date transportation information for perishable foods. For a comprehensive review of the Israeli AgriFood-Tech sector please see Start-Up Nation Central’s 2020 AgriFood-Tech Trends report or search Start-Up Nation Finder for the AgriFood-Tech & Water section.

The recent Covid-19 crisis laid bare the need for countries to become more self-sufficient. The UAE is without a doubt one of the countries that took this lesson closely to heart. Seeing as huge swathes of its territory are made up of desert, for the Emirates, achieving food security is a key goal, and high standards are being set by the government for available, affordable, safe, and high-quality food. This should perhaps come as no surprise, as food security hits at the heart of the natural challenges the country faces.

Until now, the UAE has been able to overcome its natural hurdles by importing 90 per cent of the country’s food. However, understanding that this is both undesirable and potentially unsustainable, an impressive National Food Security Strategy was published in 2018, outlining a clear direction and a plan to achieve zero hunger and to top the Global Food Security Index by 2051. However, achieving such targets will rely on innovation, applying new technologies and approaches to an ancient problem. This is where Israel can help play its part.

While Israel has much to learn from the Emirati quest to bolster food security, it also has a great deal to contribute towards this effort. Combining Israel’s impressive Agri-Food-Tech Research & Development capabilities and its innovation-driven business ecosystem with the UAE’s global leadership in the fields of logistics, trade, and finance, has the potential to produce a valuable commercial synergy that can stretch out from the Middle East to the entire world.

Such a partnership could be invaluable not only to the UAE and Israel but to a world facing rapid population growth and diminishing resources due to climate change. Israeli innovation and Emirati strategic planning can together help the world become more food secure. If successful, it will be one of the most important legacies of the Abraham Accords and a global symbol of what can be achieved through collaboration and peace.

Eliran Elimelech is the Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships at Start-Up Nation Central, the hub for corporations, governments, investors, and Israel tech innovation, creating growth opportunities by solving business and societal challenges, globally.

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