His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, today launched the Global Food Technology Challenge.
The competition is the largest of its kind that seeks to develop innovative solutions for food production and management in the UAE.
The Challenge was launched in the presence of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council and H.H. Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai.
The Global Food Technology Challenge aims to use advanced technologies and efficient tools and techniques to overcome the challenges of the agricultural sector and achieve sustainable food production in the UAE.
The challenge is in line with the objectives of the National Food Security Strategy, which aims to develop a comprehensive national system based on enabling sustainable food production through the use of modern technologies.
In addition, the Strategy defines the elements of the national food basket as per the needs of the UAE within the framework of a holistic vision that takes into account different developmental challenges such a population growth, social, economic and technological development, as well as global environmental and climate changes. The strategy specifically aims to implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems.
"The Global Food Technology Challenge will open new horizons for regional and global cooperation that will help create a unified vision for global food security. We look forward to the UAE being at the heart of this vision. Achieving food security is a key pillar of continued development," H.H. Sheikh Mohammed said.
His Highness further said: "In order to find innovative solutions that would aid us in developing a sustainable agricultural system, we must invest in scientific competencies. We invite experts and creative minds both from the UAE and the world to be part of the food technology challenge."
He stressed that the ‘culture of the impossible’ adopted by the UAE helped it play a role in achieving local and regional food security. "Experts told us that our land will not be able to grow plants but we proved them wrong. From 4,000 farms in 1971, we have more than 40,000 farms today," he noted.
"We want these innovative ideas to be at the core of quality projects in the agricultural sector, fulfilling our ambitious vision of food security and driving our national economy into the future," Sheikh Mohammed said.
"We must unify our efforts and strengthen collaboration between public and private sectors and between various regional and international institutions and organisations in order to build a vision for global food security," he concluded.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed was accompanied at the launch of the Challenge by H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation; Mohammad bin Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and The Future; Mariam Hareb Almheiri, Minister of State for Food Security; Chairman of Tamkeen Rima Al-Mokarab, and a number of senior officials.
The launch of the Challenge, organised by the Food Security Centre in partnership with economic-development group Tamkeen, was also attended by representatives from the agriculture and academic sector.
The Challenge aims to attract and encourage companies, individuals, and scientific and research institutions in the UAE and around the world to employ advanced technologies that will aid in developing innovative ideas and effective tools for food production in the UAE. It also aims to find solutions to the various local challenges facing the agricultural sector. The country imports about 90% of its food from abroad and faces many challenges to sustainable agricultural and food production.
The $1 million prize money of the Challenge will be divided among four winners.
A high-level jury consisting of international experts in technology, economy and sustainability will evaluate submissions and select the best projects in terms of efficiency, creativity, and project scalability. The winners will be announced in April 2020.
The Challenge is being supported by a number of sponsors including Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority, Al Dahra Group, Masdar City, The Catalyst, a startup technology accelerator based in Masdar City and New York University. The Challenge will also include a number of events and community activities aimed at raising awareness of food security in the country.
In November 2018, during the UAE Government’s second Annual Meetings, the UAE launched the National Strategy for Food Security. The strategy defines the elements of the national food basket, which includes 18 main types, based on three main criteria: knowledge of the volume of domestic consumption of the most important products, production capacity, and processing and nutritional needs.
The Strategy includes 38 short and long-term key initiatives and is geared by five strategic goals focused on facilitating the global food trade, diversifying food import sources, identifying alternative supply schemes, covering three to five sources for each major food category.
The Strategy aims to make the UAE the world’s best in the Global Food Security Index by 2051 and among the top 10 countries by 2021, develop a comprehensive national system based on enabling sustainable food production through the use of modern technologies, enhance local production, develop international partnerships to diversify food sources, activate legislation and policies that contribute to improving nutrition, and activate legislation and policies to reduce waste.