Covid-19 crisis and horticulture opportunities in the UAE
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Covid-19 crisis and horticulture opportunities in the UAE

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Due to the COVID-19 crisis and the necessity to attempt food self-sufficiency, the UAE Cabinet has established the Emirate Council for Food Security (ECFS) to oversee all food security activities in the country. The ECFS' role will be to submit periodic reports to the UAE Cabinet on new projects in line with the National UAE Food Security Strategy. The goal is to create 16,000 job opportunities, increase agricultural production by over 100,000 tonnes, achieve economic returns of some AED 22 billion, and align the government's efforts with the water security strategy.

In the framework of this strategy, four agriculture technology (AgTech) pioneers will build new facilities in Abu Dhabi dedicated to developing next-generation agriculture in arid and desert agriculture.

In 2019, the Abu Dhabi Investment Office, ADIO, announced its $272 million (AED 1 billion) AgTech incentive Ghadan 21 Accelerator Programme that focuses on economic, knowledge, and community development across the Emirate.

ADIO has partnered individually with AeroFarms, Madar Farms, RNZ, and Responsive Drip Irrigation, RDI. The partnership will establish new R&D and production facilities in the Emirate, turning sand into farmland, solving complex global agriculture challenges, and expanding the profile of local food producers.

ADIO will invest Dhs367 million ($100 million) in total in the four companies to build facilities in Abu Dhabi, each tasked with solving regional and global challenges. The investment office launched a targeted incentive programme in 2019 to accelerate the growth of the Emirate's burgeoning (AgTech) ecosystem and promote innovation that is locally relevant and globally exportable.

Covid-19 crisis and horticulture opportunities in the UAE

AeroFarms will focus on next-generation genetic phenotyping and organoleptic research, while also tackling the challenges of desert agriculture from its new 8,200-sqm R&D center in Abu Dhabi. As part of a $100 million AgTech investment by Abu Dhabi Investment Office ADIO. The center will be the largest indoor vertical farm of its kind in the world and will employ a projected 60 plus highly skilled engineers, horticulturists and scientists.
The farm will include the following centers of excellence:

  1. Advanced organoleptic research and precision phenotyping laboratory
  2. Advanced seed breeding center
  3. Phytochemical analysis laboratory
  4. Machine vision and machine learning laboratory
  5. Robotics, automation, and drones laboratory

Covid-19 crisis and horticulture opportunities in the UAE

AeroFarms will be partnering with major international companies, local universities, and AgTech startups, to help solve some of the most pressing agriculture needs.

Madar Farms - one example of the Dutch technology designed by the Dutch firm Certhon Greenhouse Solutions - installed more than 5,000 ultra-efficient green power LED by Signify Netherlands, Koppert Biological Control home-grown UAE AgTech innovator. It is the first commercial-scale indoor tomato farm using only LED lights in Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi, KIZAD.

The company is also set to scale up the commercialization of microgreen growing, to help provide a consistent and predictable local food supply that responsibly uses the region's natural resources. The firm is expected to use 30% less water per one KG of tomatoes compared to other greenhouses. The produce will be distributed across the UAE and help increase local production.

RDI is developing an innovative irrigation system to transform water usage in UAE agriculture and conducting research trials to increase crop yields in sandy soils and non-arable land. While locally-based company RNZ will set up a state-of-the-art R&D center to research, formulate and commercialize 'agri-input' solutions that will help to grow more with less.

Covid-19 crisis and horticulture opportunities in the UAE

To date, ADIO has allocated approximately 40 percent of the AgTech Incentive Programme funding in the first year of the three-year programme. The programme is open to local and international companies looking to establish and grow a presence in Abu Dhabi.

ADIO is an office under ADDED that attracts foreign direct investments, supports local investors via promotional efforts, and offers integrated services to current and prospective investors. In coordination with strategic partners from the public and private sectors, ADIO promotes investment opportunities across key sectors in line with Abu Dhabi's Economic Vision 2030. The office provides comprehensive, credible, and confidential services for foreign businesses: including consultations, notification of new investment projects, and assistance with establishing companies in Abu Dhabi. It also organizes various investment promotion activities locally and internationally, to promote new business opportunities in Abu Dhabi.

The ADIO is a platform for promoting the Emirate's exciting investment opportunities and facilitating the investment journeys of economic players from around the world.

Written by:
Samar Kadri
Senior Policy Advisor - Agriculture & Food
Consulate General of The Kingdom of The Netherlands

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