Abu Dhabi launches $15m plan to create chicken and fish substitutes and help end global hunger

Technology is part of an international effort to transform food production

A new global competition will seek to find alternatives to fish and chicken to sustain the planet's next billion inhabitants. Satish Kumar / The National
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Abu Dhabi launched a four-year mission to transform the way food is produced and help combat hunger.

The cornerstone of the project will be the $15 million XPrize Feed the Next Billion competition, which will challenge teams to develop alternatives to chicken and fish.

Aspire, the new technology programme management arm of Abu Dhabi's Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC), joined forces with US non-profit organisation XPrize for the project.

Even though it seems like a formidable challenge, global hunger is one of the most solvable problems in today's society

The competition was launched in the US and many nations are involved.

Faisal Al Bannai, secretary general of ATRC, said technology can improve food security and ensure millions do not go hungry.

"Even though it seems like a formidable challenge, global hunger is one of the most solvable problems in today's society," he said.

"With XPrize Feed the Next Billion, we have a unique opportunity to enable innovators to develop solutions that improve yield, productivity and sustainability across the entire global food ecosystem,"  Mr Al Bannai said.

"Abu Dhabi has been instrumental in developing the global food security ecosystem, and we are continuously uncovering cutting-edge agriculture solutions that will shape the future of food production."

Faisal Al Bannai hopes to attract some of the best minds in the hunt for new food sources. Courtesy: ATRC

The ATRC was established earlier this year with the aim of providing the capital with a world-leading research hub to harness the skills of highly-tuned technological minds.

Its areas of focus are autonomous robotics, advanced materials, cryptography, digital security, directed energy, quantum computing and secure systems.

Xprize Feed the Next Billion is funded by Ghadan 21, Abu Dhabi's accelerator programme.

Teams will be asked to develop a meat alternative that replicates everything about fish or chicken fillet, from the look and taste to smell, feel, and how it cooks.

The teams must show that their concept can be adapted for global distribution.

“Billions of individuals do and will desire higher quality protein as a food source, but the earth is incapable of providing this with traditional livestock," said XPrize founder, Peter Diamandis.

"A much more sustainable, scalable methodology is required.

"We believe hundreds of entrepreneurs will focus on driving breakthroughs in this critical and important area to help feed the world.”

The competition is also supported by The Tony Robbins Foundation, a US-based non-profit organisation which helps provide millions of meals globally each year and awards grants and other resources to health and human services organisations.

“In 2018, I suggested that Xprize run a competition to end global hunger, an issue that will only be magnified as the population continues to grow,” said Tony Robbins, a prominent life coach and motivational speaker.

"With Xprize Feed the Next Billion, we are taking it a step further, rethinking how and where food is produced."

Registration for the competition started on Tuesday and will run until April 28 of next year, with the winners to be announced in 2024.

For more information, visit xprize.org/feed.

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