Finalists announced in UAE $1 million global food security contest

Awards ceremony in September to name four winners

Finalists have been announced for a $1 million (Dh3.8m) prize fund that aims to find innovators to develop future food systems in the UAE. Courtesy: FoodTech Challenge  
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Twelve finalists have been announced for a $1 million (Dh3.8m) prize fund that aims to find cutting-edge innovations for food and agriculture production in the UAE.

An international panel of experts assessed more than 400 submissions to select the most promising proposal to develop future food systems in the country.

The finalists will be paired with a FoodTech Challenge judge as part of a  mentorship programme.

Four winners will later be selected for an awards ceremony in September and will receive a share of the $1million prize pool.

The FoodTech Challenge was launched last year by the UAE Food Security Office and Abu Dhabi-based company Tamkeen to address challenges in the agricultural sector and promote sustainable practices.

Submissions were evaluated based on technology, sustainability and commercial viability.

Two proposals that made the final list were chosen because they related to specific UAE food security priorities.

The final entries covered projects to harness digital, data-based technology, solar power and the use of alternative food resources.

A $1million prize fund aims to find winning projects to address challenges in the agricultural sector by finding cutting-edge and innovative food security solutions for the UAE. Courtesy: FoodTech Challenge

Each submission took on challenges being faced across the globe, from food loss and wastage, water scarcity, malnutrition, supply chain issues and climate change.

The top proposals came from agricultural technology companies and individuals based in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, US, UK, Italy, Australia, Turkey and Kenya.

“We are pleased to see the competition attract a high number of proposals by entrepreneurs, innovators, and bright minds from around the world,” said Mariam Al Mehairi, UAE’s Minister of State for Future Food Security.

Hanan Afifi, lead researcher at the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority and a judge, said the competition gave innovators the opportunity to demonstrate their work.

“The mentorship sessions will look to identify and expand areas where participants’ solutions promote economic sustainability, self-sufficiency, and an improved relationship with the food system,” she said.

Ramesh Jagannathan, managing director of Abu Dhabi-based startAD and a judge, said the contest addressed a critical need during the coronavirus outbreak.

"The Covid-19 global crisis has only highlighted the urgency of food security as a global grand challenge especially for the urban areas," he said.

Mentoring the finalists over the next few months would help refine the business value of their proposals, make them ready for market and provide them with key contacts in the region.

Finalists will compete for a share of the $1 million prize pool that includes $100,000 in cash and will be eligible to participate in a UAE catalyst accelerator programme that provides up to $150,000 in seed funding.

The competition was launched to support the nation's food security strategy and boost domestic production.

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