Food for Future Summit: Tech adoption puts Middle East in position to lead future of sustainable food
Global food sector players have outlined the path to sustainable food systems at Dubai’s Food for Future Summit.
The event saw pioneers from across the global food supply chain come together to map out solutions to the UAE’s and the world’s growing food security challenges.
Innovation in governance will go a long way
HE Gabriel Ferrero y de Loma-Osorio, chairperson on Food for Future Summit: World Food Security (CFS), said AI, applications, data science and automation have enabled food systems to experience technological advances like never before, resulting in more than 150 percent more food being produced today with only 13 percent increase in land use compared with 1960.
He urged the industry to look at the “bigger picture” calling for greater collaboration to unleash the true potential of innovation to ensure the protection of food producers.
He said: “Our food systems still face complex challenges. While innovations have worked, they have not worked for all people. We need broader innovation in the way we govern our food systems, locally, nationally and globally.
“Governance innovation looks at a food system’s perspective. In this way, we connect food systems governance with the governance of other issues: energy, water, environment, climate, labour, social protection, consumer protection or education. It prioritises access, encouraging programmes and solutions that are adapted and accessible to smallholder and family farmers, making full use of local and indigenous models.”
The importance of creativity in food security
Creativity can also help overcome food security adversity, according to Dr Juan Carlos Motaymayor, executive director, food sector, NEOM, who outlined how the GCC region has faced a history of dealing with conditions that limit food production. It is a region that can foster game-changing solutions to create a “climate change-proof-food industry”.
Dr Motaymayor said that companies in the region can leverage technologies to create food production solutions that lower land and water use footprints. He cited an example of traditional methods of growing tomatoes in an open field in the GCC region that require 100 litres of water per kilogram of tomatoes, compared with high-tech systems being developed at NEOM that will require only four litres per kilogram.
He concluded by stressing a belief that the region is ideally placed to drive the future of food with a powerful combination of strong political will, attractive demographics and sustained purchasing power to support the development of emerging technologies.
Incentivising youth and women to play a role
Elsewhere, the Funding Agtech & Foodtech Innovation – Fuelling Youth and Women panel featured leading lights spanning the entire industry ecosystem, who concluded that while technological innovation is facilitating the journey to a food-secure future, greater innovation is needed to engage youth and women in the benefits of a career in agrifood.
The Hon. Clay Glennford Sweeting, minister of agriculture and marine resources, Bahamas, outlined the challenges facing his nation in attracting young people into an industry where “the majority” of the farmers are over 60, citing prohibitive food costs and climatic obstacles of the country being on a hurricane belt.