Abu Dhabi agricultural technology company Silal inked a technology partnership with Agritek, a major UAE farming projects developer, to build large-scale technology solutions that will boost food quality and variety in the emirate.
The partnership will help Silal deliver on a commitment to upgrade 80 farms over the next two years with new smart monitoring and irrigation technology and to train farmers on the new systems. Last month, the company said it planned to invest $54 million in the project.
"This [partnership] falls within our remit to introduce proven technologies suitable for desert farming – ones that help leverage the food and agriculture ecosystem in the UAE,” Jamal Al Dhaheri, chief executive of Silal, said in a statement on Thursday.
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.
Silal is a part of that effort, formed in September 2020 and part of Abu Dhabi holding company ADQ's portfolio to diversify sources of food and stimulate local agriculture production.
Under the new agreement, Agritek will develop farms for Silal and contracted farmers leveraging modern irrigation and climate control management systems. These technologies will provide the optimum conditions for crops to grow, increase the efficacy of resource use, and boost farms’ operational efficiency. Modern nurseries will also be built to improve the quality of seedlings and seeds provided to farmers.
The company also executes specialised knowledge-transfer programmes on desert farming techniques, and devises research and development projects to support the increase in local production of fruits and vegetables for smallholder farmers in the UAE.
Last month, the Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority launched a new development plan aimed at increasing the efficiency of sustainable farming to support the UAE's Net Zero by 2050 initiative.
The new measures require farmers to improve water usage in the emirate and reduce reliance on its finite supply of groundwater.
Farmers will be encouraged to use recycled or desalinated water sources and cultivate crops that consume less water and are more resilient to the hot, salty climate of the UAE.
Laws governing water consumption will also be introduced.