25 Oct 2021 |

How the UAE grew from 50 to 1000 hydroponic farms

Food insecurity is complex for the Middle East, with the region facing a number of threats to stability and progress. Tackling these daunting threats requires an overhaul of the basis of the global food system, as well as collaboration with international actors to bring about the required changes. By directing efforts toward mutual global priorities, the Middle East can play an influential role in delivering a sustainable, affordable, healthy, and inclusive food system for its population.

Key investments to boost local production are vital for the region’s resilience, in addition to supporting local farmers and cooperatives. Previous crises and the pandemic have shown policymakers the value of partnering with local farmers to formulate resilience plans. Many countries are providing special loans to encourage farmers to adopt innovative farming technologies. In 2020, Saudi Arabia spent $665 million to facilitate food imports and help local farmers boost crop production through the use of hydroponics, which uses 90% less water than traditional farming methods.

Advances in agricultural technology are paving the way to greater productivity. Last year, the Abu Dhabi Investment Office invested $100 million in four agritech companies building research facilities and production centers in the emirate. Earlier this year, Dubai launched the Food Tech Valley, with research facilities, an innovation center, a smart food logistics center, and spaces for vertical farming. As a result of these efforts, the UAE now has 1,000 hydroponic farms, up from just 50 in 2009.

Many countries, particularly those highly dependent on food imports, are adopting novel approaches to food security. Singapore — long subject to volatile prices due to its 90% food import rate — is working to diversify import sources from 170 countries.

In 2019, the Singapore government announced an ambitious plan to produce 30% of its nutritional needs locally by 2030. Indoor agricultural technologies, such as hydroponic and vertical farming, are part of a range of solutions. The government partnered with German vertical farming firm &ever to establish a fully automated indoor farm that will produce 500 tons of fresh produce annually.
Last month, Singapore launched an agricultural technology training facility to teach the basics of crop farming, innovative farming technologies, farm operations, artificial intelligence in farming operations, and farm management.

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