Abu Dhabi agricultural technology company Silal is upgrading 80 farms with new smart monitoring and irrigation technology and training farmers on how to use it amid a broader push for food security in the UAE.
Silal plans to invest $54 million in the programme over two years and is aiming to improve sustainable agriculture across local farms, boost crop yields and contribute to the national AgTech strategy.
The UAE, which imports as much as 90 per cent of its food, according to one estimate by Chatham House, announced a national food security strategy in 2018.
Since then, Abu Dhabi has invested tens of millions of dollars into AgTech start-ups with a focus on technology-based solutions to boost food production, including automation, robotics and novel approaches to greenhouse or vertical farming.
The company is focused on "uplifting local farmers’ capabilities and improving their resources and skills“, said Jamal Al Dhaheri, chief executive of Silal.
The company's new initiative, announced on the sidelines of the first edition of Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Security Week, will provide 80 farms with one-hectare greenhouse or net house structures (about the size of 2.5 football pitches), fitted with smart irrigation and crop monitoring systems. The new system will help Silal double yields, compared to traditional farming methods.
The company plans to work with farmers to identify crop plans that maximise profitability and it will provide training on best practices.
The two-phase upgrade will start over the next two years with 40 farms selected for the first phase.
The upgraded farms will be a showcase for the potential of AgTech solutions in the UAE and the opportunity to produce import-quality fresh produce locally.
Silal will upgrade more farms after the first 80 and continue to offer training around the use of technology to increase yield and reduce operating costs.
The efforts by Silal come amid growing activity in the UAE AgTech sector.
In August, aquaculture company Pure Salmon partnered with the Abu Dhabi Investment Office to set up its global headquarters in Abu Dhabi, which was part of Adio’s Dh2 billion innovation programme. Later that month, Abu Dhabi’s holding company ADQ announced plans to start a new venture in Al Ain, aiming to boost the production of fresh fruits and vegetables in the UAE.
Last month, Abu Dhabi-based agricultural technology start-up Pure Harvest Smart Farms raised $64.5 million in growth capital, taking its total funds to over $271m, making it the most-funded AgTech player in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.