What is Food Security?

Food Security, as defined by the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, is “the condition in which all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food, that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and health life”.

Please refer to the document for a basic introduction to the concepts of food security. Additional in-depth reading material is available on the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) website.

What is the food value chain?

A food value chain is a series of activities that agricultural food items pass through in order to move from farm to table. The value chain also consists of all stakeholders who participate in this coordinated production of food.

What is Urban Farming?

Urban farming, also known as urban agriculture or urban gardening, is the practice of cultivating, processing and distributing food around urban or peri-urban areas. Urban farming can also include other types of farming, such as aquaculture and animal husbandry.

What is Community Food Security?

A fairly new concept, community food security exists when all community residents are able to obtain safe, culturally accepted, and nutritious food through a sustainable food system that maximizes community self-reliance.

What are some of the main challenges worldwide that are affecting food security?

Rising populations, growing affluence, climate change, stagnating agricultural productivity, and food waste are some of the main issues impeding food security globally.

For additional background reading on global food security issues, please refer to FAO’s ‘State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World’ report.

How are advanced technologies contributing to agriculture?

Technology provides various opportunities for new modes of food production including the transition from traditional farming to more modern methods, whereby the use of scarce and costly resources, such as water and energy, can be controlled and limited. Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), for example, is a technological approach to food production, where conditions and resources are monitored without compromising the crop.

What are specific food security issues being faced in the UAE?

The UAE faces particular challenges because of its extreme heat, lack of arable land, and scarce fresh water resources. For more information, click here .

What is the water-energy-food (WEF) nexus, and how does this concept apply in the UAE?

Food, water and energy systems are intimately connected with each other and water is a crucial component to making food and energy systems work. It takes water to grow crops and produce energy and it takes a lot of energy to treat and move water. Food and energy are equally dependent upon each other. The connection between the systems is known as the Water-Energy-Food Nexus.

The UAE faces acute WEF nexus issues, due to scarcity of renewable water sources, high energy consumption associated with desalination, and the lack of arable land in the country.

Why is increasing domestic food production important to the UAE?

Due to its food production challenges, the UAE currently imports over 90% of its food supplies. In order to diversify its economy and enhance the resilience of food systems, the UAE is focused on increasing domestic food production through the implementation of new, sustainable technologies. The country aspires to increase its domestic production of strategic food items by 100,000 tonnes in the coming years, specifically through technology-driven solutions.

What is the UAE National Food Security Strategy 2051?

In November 2018, Her Excellency Mariam Hareb Al Mheiri, UAE Minister of State for Food and Water Security, presented the National Food Security Strategy. The strategy defines five main goals to become a world-leading hub in innovation-driven food security by 2051:
• Facilitate global agri-business trade and diversify international food sources.
• Enhance sustainable technology-enabled domestic food supply across the value chain.
• Reduce food loss and waste.
• Sustain food safety and improve nutritional intake.
• Enhance capacity to respond to food security risks and crises.

What does the National Strategy 2051 aim to accomplish?

By launching the National Food Security Strategy 2051, the UAE aims to achieve zero hunger by ensuring access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round in the country. The strategy specifically aims to implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems.

Where can I find resources to better understand the UAE market?

Where can I find resources to better understand the UAE market? You can use the following resources to find more information about agriculture in the UAE:
UAE Country Profile from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
Food Research Platform: Research data related to food security in the UAE, compiled by the UAE Food Security Office
Ministry of Climate Change & Environment Information Center
Agriculture & Environment Statistics – Statistics Center Abu Dhabi
Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Statistics – Dubai Statistics Center
Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI)
Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority (FCSA)
Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority (ADAFSA)
Bayanat: Official data portal of the UAE Government

What is the FoodTech Challenge? Why was it introduced?

The FoodTech Challenge is a global competition that seeks innovative, technologically-driven and sustainable business ideas to enhance the UAE’s food and agriculture sectors and ultimately strengthen the country’s food security.

Why should I participate in the FoodTech Challenge?

If you have a promising business idea compatible with our needs, the FoodTech Challenge offers you an opportunity to win a portion of the $1M USD prize pool, establish your startup business in the UAE, and engage with leading agtech investors in the country.

What are the categories that must be addressed in the competition?

Participants have the choice of addressing one of two categories in the competition:

    • Community Solutions: Business ideas for technologically-driven, sustainable, and commercially viable solutions that can implemented for communities. Proposals can apply across the food value chain, from production to distribution to food loss & waste management.
Example: Mobile app that connects buyers with small-scale urban farmers.

    • Household Solutions: Business ideas for technologically-driven, sustainable, and commercially viable solutions that can implemented at the individual household level. Proposals can apply across the food value chain, from production to distribution to food loss & waste management.
Example: IoT-enabled home farm.

What is the competition format?

You will have five months to develop a business proposition that addresses specific UAE challenges in food and agriculture. You will be required to submit a detailed business case and a 1-minute pitch video. A team of subject matter experts will shortlist the submissions, and the finalists teams will present their business case at New York University Abu Dhabi in April 2020. The top four winners will be selected from these teams.

What are the key timelines for the competition?

Please refer to the ‘About the Foodtech Challenge’page for a listing of all the key deadlines and milestones to compete in the FoodTech Challenge

When and where does the FoodTech Challenge final take place?

The FoodTech Challenge final will take place at NYU Abu Dhabi from 20-22 April 2020. The finalists will be invited to present their business case in-person at this event.

What are the community events? Am I required to attend?

We will be organising a series of events on food security and agriculture technology in the UAE and internationally over the course of the competition. Attendance is not required, but encouraged, where feasible. Participation in the community events may help you acquire first-hand insights and networking opportunities that will be helpful in your submission.

Can I participate as a solo participant?

Yes, you can participate as a solo participant.

What’s my first step to submitting an entry for the Foodtech Challenge?

The first step is to register yourself or your team on the FoodTech Challenge website.

Who is eligible to participate in the competition?

The competition is open to all participants above 18 years old. University students and early-stage start-ups with prior experience in technological applications in the food and agriculture sectors are especially encouraged to apply.

Do I apply as an individual, as a team, or as an entity?

You may choose to either apply individually, or as a team of up to four people. Please note that you should apply as an individual, or a team of individuals, rather than representing a specific entity (e.g. a university).

What should be included in the business case and pitch video?

Please click here for detailed instructions on the business case and pitch video.

Once I’ve submitted my proposal, can I go back and make changes?

You may make changes up until the submission closing date – 13 February 2020.

My business background is limited, will this affect my submission? Are there resources I can access to improve my chances?

The competition is open to all, regardless of educational background. There are many free online courses from websites, such as Coursera, that teach effective business proposal writing.

Will you provide mentorship and support to help me improve my business case application?

Once you register on the FoodTech Challenge website, you will receive periodic tips and guidance via the newsletter on how to submit a strong business case. Additionally, if you are selected as a finalist, we will match you with an individual mentor, who will assist you in refining your business case ahead of the finals.

Who will cover the travel costs to the competition finals?

The FoodTech Challenge will cover transportation, food, and accommodation costs related to the competition finals for the selected finalists.

Will the organisers help me secure a visa if my team is selected for the finals?

The FoodTech Challenge organisers will work with you, to the extent possible, to secure travel documents. As requirements for each country vary, please contact your local embassy directly for more information.

Do I have to relocate my start-up to Abu Dhabi?

Winning teams that enter the Catalyst Accelerator Programme will be required to establish their startup in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi. For other teams, there are no specific location requirements, however we will actively support you to establish your business in the UAE.

As an applicant based outside the UAE, do you require a business license to enter the competition?

No, a business license is not required to submit your application.

What are the business case requirements?

Please upload your business case in PDF format. We recommend that you organise your document as per the following outline:
1. Executive Summary
2. UAE Food Security Challenge
   • Explain the UAE food security challenge that your business idea is seeking to address
  • Define which elements of food security (availability, accessibility, utlisation, stability) your specific challenge touches upon
3. Proposed Solution
   • Introduce your business proposition, explaining how it will address the UAE food security challenge identified in section 2
4. Product/Technology Description
   • Provide an explanation of the technology that will form the basis of your business idea. The technology must be relevant and implementable in the UAE
5. Sustainability
  • Explain how your solution makes improved use of natural resources, thereby tackling the Food-Water-Energy Nexus
  • Factors to consider in your analysis may include: existing natural resource utilisation rates (e.g. average crop coefficient), applicability to UAE environmental conditions, and use of renewable resources
6. Commercial Viability
  • Describe the viability, scalability, and financial feasibility of your business proposition. This should include:
     o Market research (demand and market size, competitor analysis, barriers to entry)
     o Value proposition and pricing (target market, drivers of value creation, pricing strategy)
     o Sales and distribution channels
     o Financial feasibility (P&L, cash flow, balance sheet)

What are the pitch video requirements?

The pitch video is an opportunity to introduce yourself, your team, and your business idea. The video must be a maximum of 60 seconds long and should market your idea to the judges. Suggested points to include:
   • What is your proposed company name?
   • What is your business idea?
   • Why will your idea be successful in the UAE?
   • Who is on the team, and what role does each team member play?
Only YouTube or Vimeo links are eligible for the pitch video. Professional video production and editing tools are not required.

Which category should I apply to?

Many businesses can be applied to both the household and community solutions category if scoped appropriately. We recognize that submissions might be eligible for either category; therefore, we suggest you select the category that best represents your proposal, and to explain in your business case if it could be tailored to both the household and/or community level.

Can I get feedback on my application?

We will provide feedback to participants who submit by the Early Bird Deadline on 15 December 2019. Unfortunately, due to the volume of queries we receive, we are unable to provide individual feedback for each application after this date.

Can I submit more than one entry?

While you are only allowed to register once on the website, you may submit more than one entry under the same registration. You can either choose to do so yourself, or along with up to four team members.

Can I apply if I have submitted my idea to another competition?

We require participants to disclose the details of any competition(s) in which the solution has been used so we can determine if it is still appropriate for it to be entered into the FoodTech Challenge. Each case would be looked at in terms of its individual circumstances. Please provide further details of your participation in previous competitions for us to consider and give you our view on any prior competition which you have previously entered.

I cannot access YouTube and Vimeo in my country. How can I submit my video entry?

We also accept video submissions from other video hosting sites, such as YouKu. Please upload your video on either YouTube, Vimeo, or YouKu, and provide the link on the submission platform. Please contact us at if you face any issues.

What should I include in my Executive Summary?

A strong executive summary outlines the main points from your business case submission. It allows our evaluators to assess your application in a comprehensive manner. The executive summary includes 6 main sections:
1. UAE Food Security Challenge: What food security challenge(s) does your plan address, especially within the UAE context?
2. Solution: How does your product or service solve the challenge(s) highlighted above?
3. Product/Technology: What stage is the product currently at? Has the technology been implemented in the UAE before? What are the potential obstacles/risks for implementation in the UAE?
4. Sustainability: How does your solution improve efficiency and responsible use of UAE's scarce natural resources?
5. Commercial Viability: How does your solution demonstrate commercial excellence? How do you intend to use the funding received?
6. Team: Who are your team members and what makes them strong contributors to the Challenge?

Are there any length restrictions or formatting requirements for the business case?

No, there are no length restrictions or formatting requirements for the business case, as long as you address all of the points outlined in the submission platform.

What are common mistakes to be aware of before submitting?

We recommend taking these 4 steps to ensure your application is in the best shape possible:
1. Review the Terms & Conditions and eligibility criteria carefully before submitting your application.
2. Complete all competition requirements, answering every question in the business case section.
3. Test your pitch video link. Make sure that it uses one of our approved video-sharing platforms (YouTube, Vimeo, or YouKu) and that it is 1-minute long.
4. Submit your application in English. We recommend using a spelling and grammar checker to ensure that your writing is free from errors.

How does the competition selection process work?

A panel of local and international experts from academia, the private sector, and policy circles will shortlist submissions based on the judging criteria below. The finalists teams will be invited to present their business case at NYU Abu Dhabi in April 2020 in front of a panel of VVIP judges.

What is the judging criteria?

Submissions will be assessed on three main dimensions:
a) Technology: Proposed solutions must be enabled by proven technologies that can be implemented in the UAE.
b) Sustainability: Entries must demonstrate efficient use of natural resources.
c) Commercial viability: Business propositions must be scalable, implementation-ready, and financially viable in the UAE.

What is the prize for winning teams?

A total prize pool of up to $1M USD will be awarded across four winners. Each winning team will receive $100,000 USD in prize money. Each winning team will also be eligible to enter the Abu Dhabi-based Catalyst Accelerator Programme, which provides up to $150,000 USD in seed funding and additional non-financial support.

What are other benefits that participants can receive?

In addition to the awards, all participants will have an opportunity to engage with investors, policymakers, and private sector entities via our community events. The competition organisers will also facilitate engagement with other relevant local initiatives related to agtech. The finalists will have additional networking opportunities during the three-day final event at NYU Abu Dhabi.

What is the Catalyst Accelerator Programme?

The Catalyst Accelerator Programme provides extensive support for eligible winning teams: funding, mentorship, strategic planning, research & development, legal affairs, marketing and public relations, ICT, human resources, web design and content management, accommodation, and sales management. In exchange, Catalyst takes a percentage stake in your start-up company, to be negotiated on a case-by-case basis. More details can be found here.

Are winning teams automatically entered into the Catalyst Accelerator Programme?

Winning teams will earn the opportunity to pitch to the Catalyst Investor Committee, which reviews and approves startups to join the Accelerator Programme.

Do I have to relocate my start-up to Abu Dhabi?

Winning teams that enter the Catalyst Accelerator Programme will be required to establish their startup in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi. For other teams, there are no specific location requirements, however we will actively support you to establish your business in the UAE.