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Food Security Digi-Conference gathers experts to address concerns for MENA
Thursday, 09 July, 2020, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Dubai, UAE
The first of its kind virtual digi-conference hosted from Dubai took place via video conferencing technology. The conference launched with the goal of gathering a select group of experts in the agriculture sector to discuss the latest trends and innovations in agriculture and the opportunities in improving the quality and quantity of domestic produce.

The conference kicked off with a keynote presentation from Fatema AlMulla, senior research analyst, food security office, Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and The Future, Prime Minister’s Office and looked specifically on food security in the UAE and how they are working towards a more food-secure future delivery.

AlMulla recognised the UAE’s achievements in the sector; last year the UAE climbed up the Global Food Security Index rankings from 31 in 2018 to 21 in 2019. The drastic improvement is a direct result from the efforts and funding allocated from the government into ensuring the UAE continues to drive technology and innovation.  

A panel discussion was held to discuss the initiatives in the MENA region that are in place to support the continued growth of the sector, Ag-Tech Building Code, Unified Agriculture License, Agriculture Loan Guarantee and Food Security Data Platform being just a few of the initiatives currently in place.

The panel was led by industry leaders including Sheikh Dr Majid Sultan Al Qassimi, adviser to the minister, Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, UAE; Mariam Eid, Head of Agro Industries Development, Ministry of Agriculture, Lebanon; Dr Naufal H Rasheed, advisor of agriculture policy and investment, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Oman; and Salvatore Stephen Lavallo, project manager, Abu Dhabi Investment Office.  

Mariam Eid, head of agro industries department, Ministry of Agriculture, Lebanon, said, “This conference comes at a critical moment when the world in general and the MENA countries in particular are trying to go through a difficult period where all countries return to agriculture and food security to survive. The conference presents many ideas for innovative solution.”

“Experts from various aspects related to agriculture and food from the public and private sectors met to contribute to decision-making that could make life easier,” he added.

The conference hosted more than 200 attendees along with 30 regional and international speakers as well as 11 sponsors participating throughout the two days.

Noel Greenway, managing partner of Great Minds Event Management, the organiser of the conference, said, “The objective of hosting MENA Food Security Digi-Conference was to support the UAE’s requirements to increase local agricultural production. With the government formulating plans and policies to support local food production, there was a real need for the industry to get together and share their knowledge, insights and experiences on how they can achieve these goals by utilising the latest in technological advances and innovations.”

“Our two-day virtual conference was convened by senior speakers from the industry, and included case-study presentations, panel discussions, along with an exclusive session that focussed on innovative technologies,” he added.

A strong emphasis on technology and innovation throughout the two-day agenda sought to highlight the key emerging technologies that cater to the MENA sector and included presentations providing insights on successful application of a variety of innovations and case-studies that attendees benefitted from.  The programme looked at the most effective technologies in traditional, modern, organic and smart farming including indoor vertical farming, hydroponics and aeroponics from leading farm owners and research organisations in the Middle East.

Sustainability, water scarcity and its best management, yield optimisation, youth and women empowerment as well as sustainable supply chain and logistics were among other key topics discussed during the 2-day jam packed conference.  

David Farquhar, chief executive office, Intelligent Growth Solutions, said, “Participating in the MENA Food Security event as speaker and panellist allowed us to share the suitability of these IGS vertical farm to help deliver sustainable food security in the region. We’ve had a great response to the event already and are engaging with several prospective customers.”

A notable case study focussed on The Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park as part of the technology and innovation session and was presented by H E Hussain Mohammed Al Mahmoudi, CEO, Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park. Established in 2016, the park was mandated to develop and manage an innovation ecosystem that promotes Research and Development and supports enterprise activities and the triple helix collaboration of industry, government, and academia.  

Seta Tutundjian, director of programmes, International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture and moderator of the session commented on the importance of the session, “The harsh biophysical conditions of the MENA region from water scarcity, poor soil conditions and harsh climates have hindered the expansion of profitable and sustainable agriculture. But we currently live in exciting times when advances in science, information technology and logistics offer unimaginable prospects to advance our food system. It was a pleasure to moderate this session that included representatives from research and development, start-up accelerator, and the private sector to discuss opportunities at hand.”

MENA Food Security Digi-Conference: Agriculture is the first of a series of virtual events focussing on food security organised by DigiConnect, a division of Great Minds Event Management.
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