• Aims to increase domestic food production by 30% by 2021
  • Dh 1bn programme allocated to funding agri-tech companies in Abu Dhabi
  • Commitment to reduce reliance on global supply chain

The need for Innovation

On the surface you would not normally associate a country in the driest region on earth to be a prime location for the agriculture industry. Restricted by scarce water resources, arid soils, and high temperatures, the region is seeking new ways to strengthen its domestic food production capabilities rapidly and significantly. These challenges and the need for innovation are exactly why there is such a huge opportunity for companies working in the agricultural technology sector.

The precariousness of global supply chains was exposed earlier this year as the Covid-19 pandemic bottlenecked international food manufacturing and trade. As a country that imports the majority of its food, the UAE is determined to increase its domestic production and become more self-sufficient.

Government Initiatives

The UAE government recently established the Agri-tech Sector Development Team, with public and private sector stakeholders from the country’s growing agricultural technology sector with a view to driving ground-breaking Agri-tech projects, such as growing rice in the Sharjah desert.

In 2017, the UAE government appointed Mariam Al-Mheri as the minister of state for food security, a global first. Al-Mehri’s aim is to increase domestic food production by 30 per cent by 2021 and give the local food processing industry, which produces six million tonnes of food annually, the ability to triple output if needed.

These ambitious targets cannot be met without significant investment and expertise from foreign markets. As such, as part of the Ghadan 21 three-year stimulus package unveiled last year the Abu Dhabi government launched a Dh 1 billion-programme exclusively to support the formation of agricultural technology companies in the emirate.

In April, Abu Dhabi Investment Office (Adio) invested Dh 367m to bring four agriculture technology companies to the emirate (AeroFarms, Madar Farms, RNZ and RDI).

The companies were offered a package of cash and non-cash incentives including rebates of up to 75 per cent on R&D expenditure upon commercialisation of solutions developed in Abu Dhabi. Additionally, they will benefit from “plentiful land, natural heat, competitive energy prices and access to research universities and skilled talent”, according to a statement from Adio.

This level of governmental support to private, foreign companies is unprecedented and highlights the commitment the nation has towards investing in the Agri-tech industry over the coming years.

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