The Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, has announced the construction of a new city called "Food Tech Valley". The Silicon Valley-style initiative aims to triple the Gulf country's food production. Food Tech Valley will be home to a number of start-ups dedicated to innovation and production in the agri-food sector. More than 300 varieties of crops are expected to be produced using modern techniques, according to Emirates agency WAM.
The UAE's Silicon Valley of food will have four main centres: agricultural technology and engineering, food innovation, R&D facilities and a smart food logistics space. Food Tech Valley will look at models based on sustainability and self-sufficiency to reduce wasteful use of resources. As a novelty, it will also explore the digitisation of restaurants and the use of agricultural robotics, such as the application of 3D printing in the cultivation of produce.
"Food Tech Valley is part of a series of projects that aim to keep the UAE's food, water and agriculture systems in line with the National Food Security Strategy", said the prime minister. The city will be a hub for food products based on clean technologies, with the aim of creating a sustainable agri-food industry. "Food and medicine represent strategic sectors that help ensure a prosperous and sustainable future for the next generation", added the sheikh.
In addition, the tech city will be a research hub for entrepreneurs and start-ups in the industry. As the Emirati leader said on Twitter, Food Tech Valley "will house R&D facilities, an innovation centre, a smart food logistics centre and areas for vertical farming". Food Tech Valley will be built strategically close to universities and academic institutions.
This sustainable initiative has been designed by the Ministry of Food and Water Security in collaboration with the UAE-based Wasl Properties. It will be developed within the framework of the Ministry's National Strategy, which aims to make the country the best in the world in the Global Food Security Index by 2051 and in the top 10 by 2021.
The UAE's food industry is worth more than $27 billion a year, making the nation a global food logistics hub. However, it must cope with its arid and dry ecosystem. For this reason, food and water security is high on the Emirati government's agenda. The Gulf nation has developed several initiatives to overcome this challenge, including projects in cooperation with Israel, with whom it has recently established diplomatic relations.
Food Tech Valley, in addition to being a pioneering centre for the food industry, will be an economic zone. Mariam Almheiri, minister of food and water security, said the AgTech sector is expected to grow from "$13.5 million to $22 billion in the next four years".
The United Arab Emirates had previously explored this field. According to figures from the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, the country is home to more than 177 advanced farms already using modern agricultural technologies. In addition, it has more than 100 companies promoting organic agriculture, and 500 specialised food processing companies exporting internationally.
With this innovative initiative, in addition to supporting the country's agricultural industry, Abu Dhabi is seeking to attract more investors in the sector globally. The UAE continues to promote technology and explore new forms of food sustainability, making it a role model in the Gulf region.