With the UAE aiming to become the most food-secure nation by 2051, New Zealand is accelerating efforts to bring its world-leading AgTech solutions to the region. The island nation is already working closely with Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) on research projects to enhance water and food security across the emirates and says Expo 2020 Dubai will be an important platform to showcase how proven AgTech innovations from New Zealand can solve global food challenges.
As one of the most progressive agricultural and aqua cultural nations, New Zealand is recognised globally for its leadership in sustainable farming, production and nutrition. New Zealand’s food sector feeds around 40 million global consumers each year, eight times its population. Powering the country’s agricultural industry are farmers and growers who have a deep connection to the land and resources. They combine respect for the land with advanced technology to create AgTech that delivers real results.
“New Zealand AgTech solutions are born out of a deep responsibility we have as guardians of the natural environment to leave it in a better place for future generations. This indigenous environmental ethos is called kaitiakitanga which translates into ‘care for people and place’ – it drives our agricultural innovation,” explained Alpha Kennedy, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s AgTech specialist and private sector advisor.
This focus on creating sustainable food systems has seen AgTech become one of New Zealand’s fastest growing export sectors and a priority area of development under the Government’s industry policy. New Zealand’s Industry Transformation Plan aims to export its world-class agriculture and scientific research to better facilitate global opportunities.
The UAE is already firmly in its sights, following the success of several research studies for EAD initiated by New Zealand G2G, a partnership between the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) specifically focused on sharing New Zealand’s public sector capability with the world. The projects have also involved New Zealand research institutes and experts, such as New Zealand Plant & Food Research – a crown-owned research organisation – and OnlyfromNZ, a consultancy that recognized in environmental, conservation and food production services.
“The roadmap set by the UAE National Food Security Strategy emphasizes the importance of fast-tracking the adoption of agricultural technology to increase domestic food production. And the recent launch of Dubai’s Food Tech Valley by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, further underscores the importance of global collaboration and investments in AgTech innovation.
“New Zealand is a natural partner for the UAE in the food and beverage and AgTech sectors, offering both a trusted source of premium-quality food and technical expertise to help the UAE manage its water and food security challenges. We are proud that New Zealand G2G has longstanding partnerships with Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi and is contributing to several breakthrough projects in support of sustainable environmental management. This has certainly piqued the interest of other New Zealand AgTech businesses to bring their expertise to the UAE and we see Expo 2020 Dubai as a golden opportunity to realise some of those partnerships,” said Matthew Hawkins, New Zealand’s Ambassador to the UAE.
EAD’s decision to work with New Zealand – the first country in the world to legislate for the sustainable use of land and marine resources – was prompted by a need to create a regulatory tool to inform the allocation of water to farms across the emirates. The joint research studies showed when irrigating date palm, vegetable and forestry crops, up to 50% water savings are possible. Prior to this, a team of New Zealand agencies and fishery experts worked with EAD – from 2013-2017 to help make the UAE fisheries more sustainable by 2030, using learnings from New Zealand’s sustainable fisheries initiative and fisheries management system, which are considered among the best in the world.
EAD scientists and New Zealand Plant & Food Research are also trying to find ways of increasing crop productivity while conserving precious groundwater and ensuring it does not get saltier. The four-year research project in partnership with OnlyFromNZ has been investigating the feasibility of using reject brine from small-scale desalination plants on farms and aqua-brine from fish farms, instead of groundwater, to grow salt-tolerant crops and fodders. Innovative instrumentation is now in place on 36 different plots in the UAE and will be used to monitor progress until 2024. The data will then be used to inform decisions about irrigation and environmental management.
Her Excellency Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary General of EAD said: “At EAD we understand that one of the main paths to success is through relevant and impactful collaborations and partnerships and we are honoured to be working alongside New Zealand, a nation recognized globally for its leadership in sustainable farming, production, and nutrition. Agritech has become one of New Zealand’s fastest growing export sectors, and through this important partnership, EAD aims to transform the water and food security in the UAE, in support of the national food security agenda. With the help of New Zealand’s extensive agriculture experience and research, the UAE is on a clear path to transition to a controlled agriculture environment and we are confident this country can become the most food-secure nation by 2051. New Zealand has proven to be an extremely committed partner who is consistently placing the environment at the top of its agenda, a goal which is very much aligned with the vision of our wise leadership.’’
The UAE is New Zealand’s tenth largest trading partner with two-way trade worth nearly $4 billion. With AgTech expected to play a vital role in the COVID-19 recovery, New Zealand is working with high-potential exporters to support their expansion to the emirates – specifically in precision agriculture, remote sensors, irrigation systems, soil regeneration and fertility, farm management, software training and robotic harvesting.
“With 192 nations present, Expo 2020 Dubai provides a unique opportunity to pursue new market expansion and showcase high-value New Zealand AgTech products and services to new customers. Through our Expo Business Leverage Programme we are working closely with New Zealand AgTech companies to match their expertise to real market needs in the UAE and the wider region,” added Ambassador Hawkins.