Yesterday, Tuesday, the Food Technology Challenge announced that 30 agricultural and food technology startups from around the world that seek innovative solutions to food security challenges have been shortlisted to win the $2 million Global Food Technology Challenge award.
The second edition of the Food Technology Challenge aims to explore the next decade’s technology of innovations and technologies that will transform traditional farming practices efficiently and sustainably.
The challenge was launched at Expo 2020 Dubai, organized by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and Tamkeen, along with Aspire as a main partner.
The 30 startups were selected out of 667 submissions from 79 countries, representing an increase of 52%. In entries compared to the first edition of the Challenge, which received 437 submissions from 68 countries, previous winners from Australia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom have been honored.
The challenge targets early-stage start-ups that seek to create food security solutions based on advanced technology. The challenge seeks to find effective and innovative solutions to address food production and food loss and waste challenges, including indoor and vertical farming, efficient waste management, and recycled materials.
Among eligible startups, 50% of participants focused on tackling food production challenges with a major focus on insect and aquaculture, farm management, nature-based solutions, and precision agriculture. The rest of the eligible company participants focused on food loss and waste solutions, including leftover management technology, food sharing platforms, supply chain control, and traceability as key topics.
“Salal” and “Holding” (ADQ) companies focused on supporting the food production path, relying on their experience in the sector, while the Emirates Foundation focused on supporting the food loss and waste path in line with the national initiative “Namaa”, which aims to change societal behavior to reduce food waste. Food waste and the promotion of sustainability to achieve the goals of the National Food Security Strategy of the United Arab Emirates in reducing food loss and waste by 50% by 2030 in line with Goal 12.3 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Emphasizing the global nature of the competition, the 30 candidates were selected from different countries. The largest number of eligible startups this year came from the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Spain, the United States of America, and Singapore. The Food Technology Challenge also witnessed a noticeable increase in the number of participants from the youth group, with ages ranging from 47%. The participating teams are between 18 and 35 years old.
The nominees were selected by a jury comprising 28 leading experts and specialists from various sectors, including the fields of technology and commerce. In the next phase, the competition partners will conduct interviews to evaluate the candidates, followed by a final evaluation of the candidates by 9 judges to ensure that each concept is thoroughly analyzed and from a comprehensive perspective.
The judging panel includes Her Excellency Maryam bint Mohammed Al Muhairi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment and Co-Chair of the Food Technology Challenge, Rima Al Mokarrab Al Muhairi, Chairman of Tamkeen and Co-chair of the Food Technology Challenge, and Prince Khalid bin Al Waleed, Founder, and CEO of KB W Ventures, and His Excellency Faisal Al Bannai, Secretary General of the Advanced Technology Research Council, along with His Excellency Badr Al Olama, Acting CEO of HUB71, and Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, David Rosenberg, CEO and Co-Founder of Aerofarms, and Dr. Uma Valiti, CEO, Upside Foods, and Daniel Nirenberg, President, Food Tank.
On this occasion, Salmeen Al Ameri, CEO of Salal Company, one of the parties participating in the arbitration, pointed out that food production and food security are witnessing today a critical turning point that requires us to change regularly and take bold steps to create an opportunity to find innovative solutions to food security challenges, explaining that the Technology Challenge Award Global Food is an ideal platform that brings together agricultural technology startups to develop effective solutions that help build a strong and sustainable agricultural system for future generations.
He added, “We are proud to be part of this global competition to support innovation in food production, and we will continue to work with all partners and invest in the latest agricultural technology solutions, and we look forward to the next stage of the competition and work closely with the winning teams.”
In her turn, Kholoud Al Nowais, Chief Sustainability Officer at Emirates Foundation, as a member of the jury on the technical aspect of the food technology challenge, said: “The creativity in the submissions was clear and inspiring in terms of finding innovative solutions to meet the challenge of food production, loss, and waste. The ideas and solutions On Precision Agriculture, Food Sharing Platforms, Supply Chain Monitoring, and Traceability are among the most diverse ideas. The qualified teams have demonstrated great technical and business awareness, passion, and dedication to addressing issues related to the food supply chain and enhancing food security.”
The next stage of the competition will include the identification of the ten finalists, followed by the stage of selecting four teams to win prizes totaling $2 million, of which up to $400,000 in cash will be offered. Eligibility for support programs will be awarded by the competition’s enabling partners, which includes supporting the acceleration of the growth of these companies; Hub71 will provide funding of up to $540,000, Catalyst will provide funding up to $760,000, in addition to grants by the Authority for Community Contributions (together) of up to $500,000 for projects with social impact.
In addition to the financial rewards, the winners will receive the support of the challenge partners by providing an appropriate business environment and a support network that enables the winning companies to settle in the UAE and develop their solutions and ideas. For example, the Abu Dhabi Global Market and the Abu Dhabi Residents Office will provide support with respect to commercial registration in the country through golden visas. The Abu Dhabi Competitiveness Office will provide technical, legal, and financial support for patent registration, and the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development will provide guidance and support for the transfer of concepts to the market for local agricultural technology experts.