South Korean companies join Abu Dhabi’s innovation ecosystem

Digital transformation company H2O will set up operations in the hospitality industry while K-BTS Consortium will grow Korean strawberry at six new smart farms

Adio, H2O Hospitality and K-BTS Consortium executives at the signing ceremony. Photo: Adio
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Two South Korean companies, H2O Hospitality and Korean Best Team for Smart Farm Consortium (K-BTS), have joined Abu Dhabi's innovation ecosystem to set up their businesses in the UAE capital.

H2O is a digital transformation company in the hospitality and leisure industry while K-BTS Consortium is an AgTech business that plans to grow Korean strawberry varieties from six new smart farms, Adio said on Tuesday.

“Abu Dhabi’s ecosystem and infrastructure have proven to be the ideal foundation for innovative South Korean companies like Bespin Global, H2O and K-BTS Consortium looking to establish or expand their regional operations,” said Abdulla AlShamsi, acting director general of Adio.

Adio, the Abu Dhabi government body responsible for attracting and promoting investment in the emirate, provides support to innovation-led ventures in sectors such as information and communications technology, health services, biopharmaceuticals, agriculture technology and tourism.

In 2021, Adio opened an office in Seoul to develop new relationships across the two ecosystems.

With the support of Adio, Bespin Global — a South Korean cloud technology consulting and management company — recently opened its Middle East and Africa (MEA) headquarters in Abu Dhabi, featuring a cloud operations centre and the Bespin Global Training Academy.

In December, Bespin Global formed a venture with the UAE’s e& enterprise, part of e& (formerly known as the Etisalat Group), to offer cloud managed and professional services in the Middle East, Turkey, Africa and Pakistan region.

H2O and K-BTS Consortium are expected to benefit from Adio's innovation ecosystem and commitment to transform sectors such as agriculture and hospitality through technology.

H2O automates the front and back-end processes of hotels by digitally converting manual hotel tasks, enabling paperless and contactless operations that improve efficiency and profitability.

The company currently manages more than 40,000 rooms in South Korea, Japan and South-East Asia.

It will establish its MEA headquarters in Abu Dhabi, including a research and development centre and digital transformation academy for the hospitality industry.

Once operational, H2O MEA plans to support the emirate's leadership position across smart tourism and digital transformation spaces within the hospitality industry, Adio said.

“We want to create synergies together and support the UAE to become the centre of the global tourism industry,” said John Lee, founder and chief executive of H2O Hospitality.

K-BTS Consortium plans to use Abu Dhabi’s AgTech leadership to operate six smart farms producing fresh Korean strawberries in the UAE capital.

The consortium is a venture with local strategic partner Al Marina Holding and consists of Pomit, Nongshim, Agro Solution Korea and MS Group. It plans to invest $16 million in Abu Dhabi.

The Korean consortium will benefit from Abu Dhabi’s innovation ecosystem as it moves to increase the efficiency of sustainable farming and continue to expand the availability of quality, local produce, Adio said.

“We have chosen Abu Dhabi as the first country in GCC to localise Korean Strawberry Smart Farm technologies because the strawberry smart farm requires the highest-end AgTech-related infrastructure and markets for premium and high-end products,” said Sang Hoon-yand, managing director of Pomit's Mena office.

“We plan to expand to other Middle East countries, Africa and Europe based on the success in Abu Dhabi in near future. K-BTS Consortium will go with the local partner beyond K-Strawberry to other high-value crops.”

Updated: January 18, 2023, 7:27 AM