New Food Tech Valley set to triple UAE’s food production
With the aim of tripling the UAE’s food production, the UAE government has announced the launch of Food Tech Valley, a Dubai-headquartered hub that will spearhead innovation and leverage collaboration to create sustainable food systems.
A partnership between the UAE Ministry of Food and Water Security and Wasl Properties, this smart food city will serve as the centre for future clean tech-based food and agricultural products and as an incubator for researchers, entrepreneurs, startups and industry experts involved in developing solutions that can shape the future of food.
It will support the use of emerging technologies and applied research in food processing and agriculture and apply modern farming techniques, from vertical farming, aquaculture and hydroponics, in order to fast-track self-sufficiency in fresh food produce and at the same time reduce wastage of resources.
Technology and innovation at heart of project
The hub, which is located close to universities and academic institutions, will feature a food innovation centre that’s been designed to resemble a head of wheat and will incorporate labs, research centres and prototype agricultural systems, and will support the R&D ecosystem and explore and deliver sustainable solutions around food.
It will host vertical farms, an advanced smart food logistics hub, R&D facilities and a marketplace. Driven by a circular economy model, the foodtech city will bring together companies, investors and researchers in a sustainable agribusiness ecosystem to develop the latest aquaculture and hydroponics technologies. More than 300 varieties of crops will be produce in the new city using modern farming techniques and the latest agri technologies.
Via an innovation-based approach to food, the hub aims to enhance local food production, diversify investments and advance research to align and influence future food trends and preferences. It will act as a global hub for startups, SMEs and global firms with plenty of expertise for sharing knowledge in food.
Food Tech Valley will be home to four main clusters as below:
- Agricultural Technology and Engineering Cluster This will include a vertical farm employing the latest food technologies to grow year-round vital crops for future smart cities and will further centre on developing innovative projects in bioengineering, automation, robotics and AI.
- Food Innovation Centre Provide an integrated agri-business ecogystem to nurture ideas and support startups. A specialised food factory will help produce new foods and second-generation restaurants and will explore a futuristic model that applies the highest standards of sustainability and production sufficiency.
- Research and development facilities To train food specialists and support food establishments with facilities exploring use of agri-robotics to maximise yields and drought-resistant crops. Specialist researchers will explore the application of 3D printing in algae cultivation and alternative protein production, and further studies will focus on the use of AI to monitor, analyse and manage agricultural crops and detect environmental impact, contributing to global food security research efforts.
- Advanced Smart Food Logistics Hub A fourth-generation food storage system providing smart and automated logistical storage services. This will apply blockchain technologies and big data in sorting, transporting and distributing various food products and will track food quality, origin, components, processing methods, storage and delivery to ensure efficiency of food supply chains.
To establish UAE as food security innovator
Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the UAE’s foundation, Food Tech Valley is an initiative in line with the objectives of the country’s National Food Security Strategy 2051, and the Sustainable Development Goals, which centres on creating food self-sufficiency across the emirates, while also ensuring sustainability and conservation of resources.
“As we celebrate the past 50 years of achievements inspired by our founding fathers, we look forward to the next 50 years with confidence to realise our National Food Security Strategy and enhance our capabilities in food production as a nation,” says Mariam Almheiri, Minister of State for Food and Water Security.
Primarily, the project aims to adopt and develop the latest methods for smart agriculture and food production, rationalise water use, and accelerate basic food self-sufficiency, however it’s also looking to be innovator for the world, to share its successful experiences with countries worldwide.
But more than, the project also translates High Highness bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s vision to develop projects that can shape the future and build a knowledge economy based on innovation.
As Mariam Almheiri, Minister of State for Food and Water Security, explains, Food Tech Valley is both a huge stride towards “enhancing food security” for the country, as well as serving as a global destination for “expertise in the entire food ecosystem”.
According to the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment’s 2019 figures, the UAE has more than 177 advanced farms that use modern agricultural technologies and hydroponics, and over 100 entities that implement organic farming across the UAE. These facilitate the growth of locally sourced produce all year-round and reduce reliance on seasonal farming.
Orange leads solar panel deployment in Middle East, Africa
Orange has become the first company by number of solar panels in five countries across the Middle East and Africa, following the telco’s recent acceleration of its solar projects.
Such acceleration comes in light of Orange Group's worldwide commitment to reducing its carbon footprint to zero by 2040 along with its commitment to the Middle East and Africa (MEA), the Group’s main growth region with Orange MEA currently present in 18 countries and having achieved €5.8 billion in turnover in 2020.
Upping renewable energy usage in MEA
Across the region, many Orange sites are not connected to the electricity grid and even when they are, the quality often requires alternative backup solutions. To avoid using generators that run on fuel, emitting CO2 as a consequence, Orange has put in place, and continues to put in place, a variety of initiatives such as solar panels.
In fact, the telco has now installed solar panels at 5,400 of its telecom sites, saving 55m litres of fuel each year, and can now claim a renewable energy use rate at over 50% for Orange Guinea, 41% for Orange Madagascar and 40% for Orange Sierra Leone, with solar panel solutions currently being deployed in Liberia, where 75% of Orange’s telecom sites are equipped with solar panels.
So far, so Orange. But that’s not all. In Jordan, Orange has unveiled three solar farms to switch to clean and renewable energy helping to reduce its carbon footprint. In 2020, these solar farm projects covered more than 65% of Orange Jordan’s energy needs. Since 2018, the company has successfully reduced its CO2 emissions by 45 kilotons thanks to this solar infrastructure.
“We are proud to be the first company by number of solar panels in 5 countries in Africa and the Middle East,” says Alioune Ndiaye, CEO of Orange Middle East and Africa.
Orange’s global green plans
As a stakeholder in the energy transition, Orange Group has included in its Engage 2025 strategic plan (unveiled in 2019 and guided by social and environment accountability) the objective of meeting 50% of the Group’s electricity needs from renewable sources by 2025 with the aim of achieving net zero carbon by 2040.
Earlier this year in February, Orange Group teamed up with ENGIE, the leading developer of solar and wind power in France, to deliver a global renewable energy supply solution in the country, including the development of two new solar farms in the Hautes Alpes region set to be operational by January 1, 2023.
According to Fabienne Dulac, Orange’s EVP and CEO of Orange France, “reducing our environmental footprint is major part of Orange’s strategy” and by 2025, the Group “plans to reduce 30% of its direct CO2 emissions compared to 2015 and reach an electricity mix made up of 50% renewable energy”.