The UAE imports 80 per cent of its food, which is a major challenge for the country’s food security.
Vertical farming, a practice of growing local fruits and vegetables with minimal resources, is currently making waves helping the country build a sustainable future. To address the situation, steps are being taken to restructure the food supply chain.
“Vertical farming is the future of sustainable agriculture in the UAE. We import a huge amount of goods, and need to find ways of being not only more sustainable but more self-sustaining as well, meeting local demand through local production,” said Mustafa Moiz, managing director of Uns Farms.
Agrotech Company VeggiTech, on the other hand, focuses on addressing the key challenges of traditional farming – soil, temperature and water – through its design of “protected hydroponics” and “grow-light-assisted hydroponics”.
Radical measures like harvesting water with alternative energy sources have also yielded positive results. Circular agriculture is a new priority in The Netherlands which is willing to assist the UAE in implementing this concept.
Aside from promoting sustainability, the UAE’s food security strategy also aims to ensure access to safe and nutritious food. This is why organic farming – a method that doesn’t rely on synthetic fertilizers – has also been gaining traction.
The availability of local crops has also encouraged more residents to adopt healthier lifestyles. It may be surprising to hear, but one crop that is showing a lot of promise in the UAE is quinoa, according to scientists. The number of farmers cultivating quinoa in the UAE has been steadily increasing since 2016.
Different organizations based in the UAE, are supporting the great initiative for the sustainable food production in the region with innovative technologies like growing crops that need less water or can thrive with the brackish water or producing nutritious food (like quinoa and millet) from marginal lands with poor quality water.
The UAE has appointed a Minister of State for Food Security to strategically address food security and nutrition challenges. The country ranks fourth in food affordability, but 50th in availability; hence a large amount of the food security is based on the import of food products.
Sustainability practitioners bring strong skills and out-of-the-box way of thinking to deal with the challenges ahead. CSE is holding its next Certified Sustainability (CSR) Practitioner Program in Dubai, November 17-18, 2019.