“Food security is without doubt one of humankind’s most pressing concerns and the issue is one that is felt particularly keenly in the UAE. Although considered food secure – primarily because it enjoys a high degree of economic and political stability – the UAE still faces significant challenges. These stem from its arid climate, its shrinking groundwater levels and the volatility of the wider region. Added to these geographic and geopolitical stressors is the country’s spectacular growth. As its population has expanded exponentially, increasing from about 300,000 in 1971 – the year the UAE was founded – to more than nine-and-a-half million today, the need to provide for its residents has increased correspondingly”, writes Mariam Al Mheiri, the UAE’s Minister of State for Food Security.
“My responsibility as UAE Minister of State for Food Security is to ensure that the nation continues to enjoy an adequate food supply for its citizens as it develops and to elevate its current position of 31st on the global ranking for food security to the top 10 by 2021. In order to achieve this, we are championing trade facilitation and enabling technology-based production and supply of food. The initiatives to support strategic goals are anchored in diversification of supply, alternative supply sources, technology-enabled enhancement of local production and international trade links, among others. Thus, a major part of my mandate is involved in incorporating agricultural technology – also known as “AgTech” – into the country’s food security agenda. This agenda is enshrined in the UAE’s recent launch of its National Food Security Strategy.”
“Vertical farming is another AgTech component that my department is promoting and one that has been identified as offering a solution to the UAE’s food security issues. The concept involves plants being grown in vertically stacked layers in an indoor environment where environmental factors can be controlled. Vertical farms typically use artificial light, humidity regulation, temperature control and minimum use of pesticides, enabling the production of vegetables in large quantities all year round without the need for soil, sunlight and chemicals. The commercial applications of vertical farming are already being realised in the UAE, with the opening of the Gulf region’s first-of-its-kind facility in December 2017. Located in the Al Quoz industrial area of Dubai, the 8,500sq ft farm produces 18 varieties of micro-greens, including rocket, kale, radishes, red cabbage, basil and mustard.”