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Gulfood Green 2024

18 Apr 2024

Nurturing Sustainability: Cultivating a Brighter Food Future in the UAE

Nurturing Sustainability: Cultivating a Brighter Food Future in the UAE

Across the bustling kitchens and vibrant dining spaces of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a silent revolution is under way - one that promises to secure our future of food while safeguarding the planet.


As our population grows and environmental challenges loom large, the need for sustainable practices in the food and beverage (F&B) industry has never been more pressing. From farm to fork, innovative initiatives are paving the way for a more sustainable and resilient food system. Can your business benefit from fresh ideas around food sustainability?


Sustainable Farming Is Cultivating Tomorrow's Harvests


At the heart of the UAE's food sustainability journey lies the adoption of sustainable farming practices. With arid landscapes posing unique challenges, our nation has embraced cuttingedge technologies to maximise yields while minimising environmental impact.


In 2022, Dubai unveiled the world's largest vertical farm, a sprawling indoor facility spanning 31,000 square metres at Dubai's Al Maktoum International Airport. Composed of stacked trays in towering structures, this innovative farm utilises minimal water and soil to cultivate over one million kilograms of premium leafy greens annually.


Across the city, within the Food Tech Valley, construction is under way for an even grander venture: the GigaFarm. This colossal project, standing 12 metres tall and spanning 83,612 square metres, is set to surpass its predecessor.


Led by the UAE-based enterprise ReFarm, the GigaFarm isn't just about size; it operates on a distinct model, setting it apart from other vertical farms. GigaFarm intends to revolutionise farming sustainability by employing an array of technologies capable of converting waste streams, including food scraps and sewage, into valuable agricultural resources like compost, animal feed, purified water, and renewable energy.


By situating farms closer to consumers and implementing highly efficient production techniques to minimise fertiliser usage, this approach pledges to significantly diminish the carbon footprint associated with food production. The system aims to cultivate up to three million kilograms of leafy greens, herbs, and vegetable seedlings annually, potentially replacing as much as 1% of the UAE's food imports.


Circular Economies Are Closing the Loop on Food Waste


In a world where one third of all food produced goes to waste, tackling food waste is imperative for a sustainable future. Fortunately, the UAE is leading by example with innovative solutions that embrace the principles of a circular economy.


The UAE has initiated a national action plan to halve food loss and waste by 2030. Mariam Bint Mohammed Almheiri, former Minister of Climate Change and the Environment, introduced the plan at the fourth National Dialogue on Food Security, in collaboration with ne’ma, the National Food Loss and Waste Initiative. The event focused on identifying challenges and solutions, and mapping hotspots of food loss and waste.


The roadmap aims to establish new social norms, scale best practices, and implement policies across the food ecosystem. It involves mobilising stakeholders, building monitoring capacity, fostering public-private partnerships, promoting circular economy approaches, and introducing new mandates. Over 200 interviews and workshops were conducted for collective ideation. Additionally, prominent entities like Jumeirah Group, Hilton Group, Rotana Group, and Expo City pledged their commitment to food loss and waste reduction.


Technology and Innovation Are Pioneering Solutions for Tomorrow's Challenges


Innovation lies at the heart of the UAE's quest for food sustainability. Pure Food Technology, a UAE-based company, has introduced a ground-breaking innovation in vertical farming, aiming to transform the nation from a net food importer to a self-sustaining food producer. Their pioneering hydroponic vertical farm, powered by solar energy and driven by artificial intelligence and robotics, represents a paradigm shift in agriculture.


This technology, developed by a team of experts, utilises 95% less water compared to traditional farming and achieves 100 times higher crop yields. By harnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, and 3D printing, along with solar energy, the farm operates autonomously in desert environments without the need for soil or fossil fuel-based power sources.


The entire process, from cultivation to harvesting, is automated, minimising human intervention and environmental impact, making it a truly unique solution for food security in the UAE.


Educating and Empowering Consumers Leads To Conscious Consumption


As part of the UAE's "Year of Sustainability" initiative, the public will be encouraged to adopt plant-based diets, reduce food waste, and practice portion control. The campaign emphasises the promotion of plant-based diets, reflecting the increasing interest in such diets within the UAE in recent years.


This trend is supported by a report indicating significant growth potential for meat alternatives in the country until 2028. Notably, brands like THRYVE, the Gulf Cooperation Council’s pioneer in 100% plant-based meat, as well as popular plant-based brands Moving Mountains and VBites, have entered the UAE market in response to rising demand. Additionally, there's been a surge in local producers like Sprout, a children’s food brand, catering to this growing preference for plant-based options.


Looking Ahead: A Flavourful Future


While strides are being made towards a more sustainable future, there's recognition of the challenges ahead. The journey towards ensuring accessible, diverse, and nutritious food for all while safeguarding our planet's health is ongoing and requires concerted efforts.


Acknowledging the need for improvement, initiatives and strategies are being developed to address the country's reliance on food imports and to enhance sustainability practices. By emphasising innovation, consumer education, and circular economies, there's a commitment to nurturing the UAE's culinary heritage while mitigating environmental impact.


Realism underscores the path forward as we work to balance the present demands with future needs. By collectively striving for sustainability, we aspire to create a more resilient and equitable food system for generations to come. And in this journey, events like Gulfood, the world's biggest annual F&B event in Dubai, serve as pivotal platforms for advancing these objectives.



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