The UAE Food Security Office has launched the open ‘Food Research Platform’ – the first-of-its-kind in the region – with the new portal now available on the office’s official website: www.foodsecurity.gov.ae/foodresearchplatform/. The launch takes place during UAE Innovation Month 2020, which, this year, bears the theme ‘The UAE Innovates in Preparation for the Next 50 Years’.
Aiming to create a knowledge database for all scientific and practical research done in the UAE in the field of food security, the platform allows individuals and organisations to explore findings of research and development (R&D) efforts, and study cases and uses of advanced technologies in the food security sector.
Additionally, the portal seeks to promote investment in sustainable food production, answering the requirements of different entities involved in the food security sector. It gives data on all components of food security, including sustainable food systems and value chains, all while streamlining R&D processes and synching them with the UAE’s National Food Security Strategy.
Her Excellency Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, Minister of State for Food Security, stated: “Our efforts at the Food Security Office are outfitted towards achieving the aims of the National Food Security Strategy, among which is establishing the UAE as a global leading hub in innovation-driven food security. With that in mind, we launched the ‘Food Research Platform’ to serve as a reference for researchers – be they individuals or institutions – to channel advanced technologies to develop food-security solutions here in the UAE. This, in turn, helps establish a national research database offering insight into the production, management, and the whole value chain of the food sector in the UAE.”
“The launch of the new platform coincides with the UAE’s Innovation Month 2020, which seeks to embed innovation as a culture and engage the community in research and experiments that seek to find forward-thinking solutions, in line with the year of preparations for the next 50 years. H.E. Almheiri added. “The UAE Innovation Month offers a prominent opportunity to showcase the new platform’s role in promoting innovation in the UAE, starting from the food security sector – one of the most critical sectors to focus on in order to ensure prosperity for future generations.”
“As the challenges facing food security in the UAE and the world continue to multiply, research, development, innovation, and technology become all the more important. This makes our responsibility to make sure the security of our food sources two-fold. Advanced technologies and scientific research in sectors such as indoor farming and closed aquaculture offer a host of solutions to all hurdles to food security,” H.E. explained. “The Food Research Platform presents an open and integrated knowledge database that aims to engage the community and every concerned entity in the sector, and bring them into the food-security ecosystem. This platform will help to link the dots between research and industry and align research funding and spending, efficiently and effectively”
Food security is a responsibility shared by all members of the community, H.E. Almheiri asserted, noting that the new platform presents an opportunity to implement plans that drive substantial development and steer investment into the food production sector, to the advantage of all citizens and residents of the UAE.
The Food Research Platform is populated with food security research data, information on key investors in the food and agriculture sectors, the UAE’s food security research agenda and instructions for patent registration in the emirates - the latter element serving to educate local private companies on the importance of patenting their food security technologies and innovations.
The platform seeks to support R&D in a time of establishing global food-security challenges. As the world’s population rapidly swells to hit an estimated 9.7 billion people by 2050, food production will need to increase by at least 70%, with production of grains alone needing to grow by 50%. Meanwhile, the world is now wasting a third of its food production (valued atUSD1 trillion) in the face of agricultural productivity diminishing in many countries across the globe, weighed down by the challenges of water scarcity, climate change and the increasing salinity of agricultural lands – challenges particularly faced in the Middle East and the UAE.
The UAE’s most notable challenges in the food security sector include a heavy dependence on food imports, with the UAE procuring 90% of its food from abroad and local agriculture accounting for no more than 1% of GDP. This is in addition to a low expenditure on R&D (0.7% of GDP) and as much as 66% of its water being consumed for agricultural purposes.
The Platform includes eight thematic research and development areas from Farm IoT, which is the application of modern ICT (information and communication technologies) into agriculture, to Ag Supply Chain Technologies, and Robotics and Equipment, which include emerging applications of robots or drones in agriculture and weed control, where the agricultural robotics market is expected to reach USD11.58 billion in value by 2025.
The remaining areas consist of Agricultural waste mitigation, Bio-based Materials(which advocates for the use of renewable non-fossil-fuel-based energy produced from biological sources), Alternative Food that are regarded as a more environmentally sustainable or a healthier, Novel Farming such as indoor and vertical farming, and finally, Agricultural Biotechnology, which consists of a range of tools that can be used to modify living organisms (plants and animals)to make or modify products, improve crops and livestock, or develop microorganisms for specific agricultural uses.
The Food Research Platform has been designed to enable seamless access to data. It highlights newly-added reports and informs users of the most viewed- and searched-for studies in a given field, as well as allows them to compare various research papers and agricultural systems implemented in the UAE. The platform publishes researchers’ data, enabling users to reach out to them for additional information. This is in line with the programme’s objective to connect researchers with private institutions to work towards solutions tailored to the UAE’s environment.
The Food Research Platform is free for users, available in Arabic and English, and offers push notifications to alert subscribers when new content is added. It goals to provide pertinent data to support several international competitiveness indices, most remarkable of which is the Global Food Security Index and offer insight into government and private spending on R&D in the food security sector.