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UAE declares winners of $2m foodtech challenge

© TamkeenHE Mariam Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change & Environment, Rima Al Mokarrab, Chair of Tamkeen, FoodTech Challenge winners and partners - Aspire, Silal, ADQ & Emirates Foundation
HE Mariam Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change & Environment, Rima Al Mokarrab, Chair of Tamkeen, FoodTech Challenge winners and partners - Aspire, Silal, ADQ & Emirates Foundation

Four startups have been chosen as the winners of 2022’s Global FoodTech Challenge and will share $2 million in prize money to expand their businesses within the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

  • Each winning company will receive its share of the $2 million prize alongside mentorship, commercial incentives, startup acceleration and support with research and development. 
  • Global food systems are in urgent need of transformation if they are to provide enough nutrition for the growing population while simultaneously reducing their devastating impact on the environment. 
  • The diversity of the winning startups highlights the opportunities for technological developments in addressing the food crisis. 

At an awards ceremony held during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, the winners of the UAE’s latest Global FoodTech Challenge have been announced. The Challenge, a collaborative initiative led by the Bahrainian government agency Tamkeen and the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, serves to identify and support innovative startups from anywhere in the world that are developing sustainable solutions for food production or waste management. 

Having stood out from the Challenge’s 667 applications, each company will now receive its share of a $2 million prize to drive its expansion within the UAE. They will also gain access to a wide range of mentorship opportunities, commercial incentives and other support services provided by the Challenge’s multiple partners. 

“Congratulations to the four incredibly talented winners that are set to reshape the agri-tech landscape of the UAE and wider world. The FoodTech Challenge taps into global talent and provides a critical path to innovation across cutting-edge technologies, while supporting the UAE’s National Food Security Strategy and a path towards a more sustainable global food system,” said Mariam Almheiri, co-chair of the FoodTech Challenge and the UAE’s Minister of Climate Change and Environment. 

The winners of the UAE’s Global FoodTech Challenge 

Of the four winning startups, only one has emerged from within the UAE. Based in Dubai, Revoltech has developed a unique freezing technology that uses electromagnetic fields to prevent food from being damaged during cooling.  

The company claims that its process can freeze produce twice as fast as conventional alternatives, and that it can safely preserve each item’s nutritious benefits for a longer period of time. By ensuring that fresh food remains undamaged and nutritious, Revoltech believes that it can lower the volume of produce that goes to waste and increase the accessibility of a healthy diet. 

Alongside Revoltech are two UK-founded businesses, Aquagrain and Sustainable Planet. The former has developed a soil enhancement solution that is made from organic waste and can absorb high volumes of water to deliver vital nutrients to growing crops, while reducing the need for environmentally harmful fertilisers.  

Sustainable Planet, meanwhile, has optimised the growth of water lentils to provide a sustainable source of plant-based protein. The fast-growing lentils can be cultivated on desertified, non-arable land, consuming far less water than traditional protein isolates and offering greater potential for carbon sequestration. 

The fourth winner of the Global FoodTech Challenge, Orbisk, was founded in the Netherlands. Its solution combines artificial intelligence-enabled cameras and advanced automation to quantify and predict the food wastage of professional kitchens. The company says that restaurant owners and caterers can reduce their food waste by as much as 70% within one year of the technology’s adoption, reducing their impact on the environment and improving their overall profitability. 

Addressing the global food crisis 

The global food system currently accounts for around a third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, making it one of the most significant contributors to climate change. With its excessive consumption of land, fresh water, and chemical inputs, it is also a major driver of biodiversity loss, resource scarcity and pollution. 

As these crises continue to evolve, the agricultural industry itself is growing more vulnerable to their impacts. The increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather conditions, combined with the rapid decline in soil fertility, fresh water and available space, threatens its capacity to provide enough nutritious food to feed the growing population. 

Despite growing concerns around food security, however, around 40% of the food grown each year goes uneaten. On an annual basis, more than 2.5 billion tonnes of food produce are wasted across the world, while vulnerable communities endure severe hunger in the face of rising prices and limited access to vital nutrition. 

Ultimately, there is little doubt that global food systems have reached a point of crisis and are in dire need of dramatic transformation.  

Innovations in food technology present wide a range of opportunities 

Each winner of the Global FoodTech Challenge has taken its own unique approach to tackling the global food crisis. Their diversity highlights the wide range of opportunities that different technologies can bring to the table, while the competition itself demonstrates the increased awareness and support of the space. 

Given the urgency of the situation, it seems likely that the demand for sustainable food technologies will continue to rise. Entrepreneurs, researchers and other individuals or organisations ought to take heed of the winning startups’ success and recognise that now is the time for innovation.

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