UAE global FoodTech Challenge announces $2M prize for agri-tech innovators

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AUTHOR: Fiona Holland
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Launched at the EXPO2020 Dubai, the second edition of the UAE FoodTech Challenge will offer $2M to four winning international early-stage start-ups developing efficient and sustainable solutions in the agri-tech sector.

Judges of the competition are looking for entries that tackle two major themes: Food Production and Food Loss and Waste.

In addressing the first issue, start-ups will be required to showcase solutions for improving food security and developing next-generation nutrient-rich alternatives to imported crops that are no longer sustainable.

The UAE has been importing 80-90% of its food, a system that the pandemic has shown as untenable and prompted the country’s need for developing agricultural solutions to restore its soil, reduce waste and grow its own food.

To tackle food loss and waste, competitors will be tasked with developing technologies that encourage sustainable agricultural practice within the entire food supply chain.

Successful teams will be awarded a share of the money, which can be used to scale business models within the UAE. They will also receive additional support in the form of R&D assistance, company acceleration, commercial opportunities, and mentorship.

The FoodTech Challenge is open to applications from around the world and allows pilot projects from university research institutions, smaller organisations and solo entrepreneurs to take part.

Competing groups from countries that have a strong focus on agri-tech are strongly encouraged to apply.

The challenge was developed by the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and Tamkeen LLC, an Abu Dhabi-based company which develops the area’s social, cultural and educational sectors through partnered projects with regional and global organisations. ASPIRE, the programme management pillar of the Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC) that manages R&D funding across the UAE, is also backing this year’s competition.

Commenting on the launch of the FoodTech Challenge, Mariam Almheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said: “The importance of food security has never been more pertinent, with supply chain challenges and climate change disrupting the world as we know it.

The pressure is on for us to rethink food for the future, to rethink resilient agricultural practices, and to leverage the best of technological advancements in doing so. The FoodTech Challenge brings us closer to finding some of those solutions, acknowledging the critical role that innovation has to play in addressing our shared challenges”.

Rima Al Mokarrab, Chair of Tamkeen LLC, added: “Responding to the UAE’s long-term and far-reaching food security ambitions requires bold approaches that foster creative ideas, newfound models and extensive coordination with the global agri-tech ecosystem.

“The FoodTech Challenge brings together a powerful consortium of multi-sector partners who drive progress – supporting sustainable, technology-driven, commercially viable solutions to thrive here in the UAE”.

The two themes of the FoodTech Challenge will also be supported by partnerships with local groups. ADQ’s Silal, a company improving food distribution models in the UAE, will assist with the Food Production theme, while the national charity for increasing youth employability, Emirates Foundation, will be the partner for Food Loss and Waste.

Food production, waste and sustainability are a growing concern in the UAE. Last month, the country, launched an innovative Food Rescue Programme after a successful trial held at the Dubai Expo 2020

Applications for the FoodTech Challenge are open until June 2022. The top 10 teams will then pitch their ideas during an Awarding Ceremony, held in November.

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