5 innovation areas to win UAE's $1M Food Technology Challenge
The world’s largest food security programme, the Food Technology Challenge, has been announced by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
The seven-month long programme will seek to find solutions for food security, which is a key pillar under the National Food Security Strategy 2051 as well as the vision for sustainable development. The aim is to find solutions for food production and management through advanced technology, tools or techniques that will enable the agricultural sector to overcome challenges and bring sustainability to food production.
The UAE has one of the toughest climates to grow food, yet it has seen huge advances in recent years in the agriculture industry.
“Long ago, some experts said that our land is not suitable for agriculture. We proved they were mistaken as we now have more than 40, 000 farms, up from 4,000 in 1971.”H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
The challenge will reward $1 million to four winners who find solutions to food security. Submissions will be judged by an international panel of experts. Winners will be announced in April 2020.
Here are 5 areas that we believe can help you get started on finding a food technology solution:
Farming is one of the key areas for innovation, to make use of unusable space; such as vertical farming that makes use of city infrastructure and reduces carbon footprint in the transport of food; hydroponics, plant breeds that are more resistant to extreme climates and do not need much water — the possibilities are almost endless.
Nutrient density is one of the key aspects of food. When nutrition reduces, the value of food goes down. Nutrient dense foods are crucial to keep bodies healthy and prevent diseases. Many people in the UAE rely on imported fruits such as pink pataya and raspberries to get their antioxidants.
Techniques to breed plant species exist. Can you find a way to make fruits and vegetables grown in the country healthier?
3. Food Waste
Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted.The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
Tackling food waste is one of the key pillars to food security. The lesser the waste, the more food there is for consumption. There are a two major avenues where food gets dumped:
Supermarkets and restaurants in the UAE throw out food as garbage instead of giving it away, even if it is in perfectly good condition. France has outlawed this practice.
Rotting produce is the other problem that forces people and business to toss out food. Solutions to lengthen the life of food are a great avenue to be explored. Apeel Sciences in the US have developed a spray made from food waste that prolongs the life of food and delays them getting spoiled.
The link of food traceability might not seem to have a direct connection, however, it does support better food practices by farmers and B2B middlemen. As people are becoming more conscious of their carbon footprint and knowledgeable, and blockchain technology is increasingly adopted, the supply chain can be drastically improved.
This can also optimise the farm to table timeline, helping fresher food to be available to customers, while avoiding the food to be lost to decay during transit.
5. Food Alternatives
The traditional meat and dairy industry has a massive carbon footprint, and its products are primarily consumed for their protein content. Food scientists across countries are developing alternatives that are much more sustainable for food security. For example, protein made out of insects is becoming increasingly popular.
Such alternate sources of foods are bound to gain popularity within the region, as they are easy and efficient to sustain.