04 Apr 2022 — The second edition of the global FoodTech Challenge – launched at the EXPO2020 Dubai – has unveiled the competition’s pooled prize amount of US$2 million. The program aims to spur on the next wave of technology innovations “on the cusp of transforming traditional agriculture practices, efficiently and sustainably.”
With a pooled prize of up to US$2 million, the winners will be offered an opportunity to scale-up their business model within the United Arab Emirates (UAE), supported with R&D, start-up acceleration, commercial incentives and mentorship to take winning concepts from lab-to-market. Applications are being encouraged from around the world, with a priority on agri-tech concentrated nations.
The FoodTech Challenge is organized by the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and Tamkeen, an Abu Dhabi entity that partners with leading local and international institutions to deliver projects that enrich the UAE’s social, cultural and educational landscape.
“The importance of food security has never been more pertinent, with supply chain challenges and climate change disrupting the world as we know it,” remarks Mariam Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment.
“The pressure is on for us to rethink food for the future, to rethink resilient agricultural practices, and to leverage the best of technological advancements in doing so. The FoodTech Challenge brings us closer to finding some of those solutions, acknowledging the critical role that innovation has to play in addressing our shared challenges.”
Zeroing in on food production and waste solutions
The first edition of the FoodTech Challenge saw 437 applications from across 68 countries, with winners announced from Australia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the UK.
Targeted at early-stage start-ups – ranging from international university-based research teams to individual entrepreneurs and small firms – the second edition invites innovations related to two critical tracks.
These tracks focus on the areas of “Food Production” to address the availability and abundance of food and explore next-gen nutrient rich alternatives, and “Food Loss and Waste” to ensure sustainability across the food supply chain and the planet more broadly.
Each track is also being supported by a local champion, with Abu Dhabi Developmental Holding Company and Abu Dhabi-based new fresh food and agritech company Silal being the track partners for increasing food production, and Emirates Foundation the track partner for reducing food loss and waste.
“Responding to the UAE’s long-term and far-reaching food security ambitions requires bold approaches that foster creative ideas, newfound models and extensive coordination with the global agri-tech ecosystem,” says Rima Al Mokarrab, chair of Tamkeen.
“The FoodTech Challenge brings together a powerful consortium of multi-sector partners who drive progress – supporting sustainable, technology-driven, commercially viable solutions to thrive here in the UAE.”
Applications for the Challenge will remain open until June, when submissions will be shortlisted and the top 10 teams given an opportunity to present their business cases at the Awarding Ceremony in November.
With a focus on breakthrough technologies, Faisal Al Bannai, Secretary General of ATRC, comments: “The UAE is one of the most exciting places in the world right now when it comes to innovation and harnessing the power of cutting-edge technology to help find the answers to some of society’s most pressing issues.”
This edition of the competition is further supported by ASPIRE, the program management pillar of the Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC), which oversees technology related R&D funding for Abu Dhabi and the wider UAE.
The competition is additionally supported by Abu Dhabi Global Market, Abu Dhabi Residents Office, The Catalyst Accelerator and Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development.
Food-tech race in the Middle East
As food-tech advances in the Middle East, consumers have been looking to religious authorities for answers on nascent ethical issues – such as whether cell-based meat products will ever be accepted as Halal or Kosher.
In a previous interview, FoodIngredientsFirst caught up with Israel-based start-ups Aleph Farms and SuperMeat, as well as experts from the UK’s United Synagogue and the Islamic Chamber of Halal Certification Services (ICHCS) about how modern cultivation can be reconciled with long-held traditions and rituals.
Other recent industry developments in the Middle East include Lesaffre’s launch of a baking center in Dubai as part of a network expansion strategy to support customers from the UAE and the greater Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region in developing disruptive baking solutions.
Hydrocolloids supplier CP Kelco also expanded its distribution relationship with Azelis in the Middle East, strengthening its global reach.
By Benjamin Ferrer
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