UAE’s Vast AgTech Potential takes Centre Stage at UAE National Food System Summit

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H.E Mariam Almheiri, Minister of State for Food and Water Security, hosts dialogue to discuss how advanced agricultural technology can contribute to meeting United Nations’ SDGs

Dubai, UAE: The huge potential of the UAE’s advanced agricultural technology sector to meet the United Nations (UN)’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was a key topic taking centre stage at the UAE National Food System Summit Dialogue, which was held virtually on (July 8).

Hosted by Her Excellency Mariam Almheiri, Minister of State for Food and Water Security, the dialogue under the theme ‘Special Zones for Modern Farming and Access to Technology’ formed a preliminary event to the United Nations (UN)’s Food Systems Summit, which is scheduled to take place in September.

Up for discussion at yesterday’s dialogue, which was attended by representatives from  federal government entities , local authorities, the private sector, international organizations, academia, farmers and the youth , was how the UAE’s lead in implementing AgTech (agricultural technology) could see it playing an influential role in meeting the UN’s 17 SDGs, all of which rely on achieving global food security to some extent. During the conversations, Her Excellency highlighted that the drive to meeting the SDGs was in lockstep with the UAE’s own ambition to be a global hub of innovation-driven food security, as outlined in its National Food Security Strategy 2051.

“The adoption and implementation of technology throughout the food value chain represents not only the best means of enhancing our own country’s food security, it also enables us to become a valuable knowledge resources in this vital area of agriculture – an area that the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation recognises as essential to meeting the entire array of SDGs.” said Her Excellency.

“As the UN has pointed out, the global community is currently off course to be able to meet its Sustainable Development Agenda by 2030, with the global pandemic being one major interrupter that is threatening to push the target further into the distance.  Nothing short of a sustained and concerted attempt by all stakeholders – governments, NGOs and private citizens – is needed to radically transform the way we produce, value and interact with food. Research, technology and innovation are the essential underpinnings of inclusive, resilient, efficient and sustainable food systems and the UAE is committed to playing its role in accelerating this transition,” added Her Excellency.

Highlighted during the discussions was the role that the UAE’s growing urban farming sector could play in meeting the SDGs, with Controlled Environment Agriculture initiatives that are constructed within the built environment being important food systems disruptors that place crop production at the heart of the community.

“The UAE has huge potential to maximise its urban farming capacities and by bringing food closer to the table, reduce the pollution and costs associated with lengthy transport chains. When scaled up, urban farming can better insulate countries from supply chain impacts, such as those seen when global pandemics strike. By taking this concept even further and encouraging citizens to produce food in their own homes, we move them from being consumers to ‘prosumers,’ in the process inculcating within them a heightened awareness of the value of food.” commented Her Excellency.

Attention was also drawn to the FoodTech Valley, a dedicated AgTech city launched on May 1 this year. Under construction in Warsan area in Dubai, over 18 million square feet of land, FoodTech Valley has been created to spearhead innovation and create collaborative networks to lead regional transformation in food systems. The city aims to a hub for future clean tech-based food and agricultural products and, in the process, enable the country to become a leading exporter of sustainable food systems.

“FoodTech Valley will be an integrated modern city that will serve as a hub for future clean tech-based food and agricultural products. It will accelerate self-sufficiency to a certain degree in fresh food produce and reduce wastage of resources by applying research and modern technologies to the latest farming techniques, such as vertical farming, cellular agriculture and hydroponics. Home to four clusters that encompass agricultural technology & engineering, a food innovation centre, research & development facilities, and an advanced smart food logistics hub, the city will produce over 300 varieties of crops using modern farming techniques and the latest agri-technologies. We are looking forward to presenting FoodTech Valley’s future potential at the forthcoming UN Food Systems Summit,” added Her Excellency.

The United Nations Food Systems Summit will take place alongside the UN General Assembly in New York in September. Hosted as part of the UN’s ‘Decade of Action’ towards achieving the SDGs by 2030, the summit aims to awaken the world to the fact that the global community must work together to transform the way the world produces, consumes and values food, reiterating that it requires everyone to take action to transition the world’s food systems.