Ruler of Dubai launches $1 million Global Food Technology Challenge

The competition seeks creative solutions to achieve sustainable food production

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid listens to a presentation with Tamkeen chairman Rima Al Mokarrab and food minister Mariam Al Mehairi. Courtesy: Dubai Media Office
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The Ruler of Dubai has announced a $1 million (Dh3.8m) prize fund for innovative solutions to food production in the UAE.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said the competition aimed to address mounting challenges to the agricultural sector by creating new, cutting-edge technologies.

Sustainable food production in the Emirates has been a major focus over recent years as the country seeks to lessen its reliance on imports.

The UAE currently brings in about 90 per cent of its food requirements, although practices such as vertical farming and hydroponics are reducing this dependence.

"Experts told us that our land will not be able to grow plants but we proved them wrong,” Sheikh Mohammed said in a statement to the government news agency, Wam.

“From 4,000 farms in 1971, we have more than 40,000 farms today. We want these innovative ideas to be at the core of quality projects in the agricultural sector, fulfilling our ambitious vision of food security and driving our national economy into the future.”

The $1m prize fund - known as the Global Food Technology Challenge - will be open to companies, individuals as well as global scientific research institutions.

The launch of the Challenge is organised by the Food Security Centre in partnership with Abu Dhabi-based company, Tamkeen. Other partners include New York University Abu Dhabi.

A panel of international experts will judge the competition – announcing four winners in April next year who will split the prize money between them.

Last year, the UAE launched the National Strategy for Food Security with the goal of diversifying food imports and facilitating the global food trade.

It aims to ensure the country is ranked top in the Global Food Security Index - created by The Economist Intelligence Unit - by 2051 and among the top 10 by 2021.

“The Global Food Technology Challenge will open new horizons for regional and global cooperation that will help create a unified vision for global food security,” said Sheikh Mohammed.

“We look forward to the UAE being at the heart of this vision. Achieving food security is a key pillar of continued development.”