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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The UAE faces particular challenges because of its extreme heat, lack of arable land, and scarce fresh water resources. For more information, click here .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 top 10 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.
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
The FoodTech Challenge final will take place at NYU Abu Dhabi from 21-23 April 2020. The top ten finalists will be invited to present their business case in-person at this event.
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.
The first step is to register yourself or your team on the FoodTech Challenge website.
The competition is open to all. University students and early-stage start-ups with prior experience in technological applications in the food and agriculture sectors are especially encouraged to apply.
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).
Please click here for detailed instructions on the business case and pitch video.
You may make changes up until the submission closing date – 13 February 2020.
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.
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 top-ten finalist, we will match you with an individual mentor, who will assist you in refining your business case ahead of the finals.
The FoodTech Challenge will cover transportation, food, and accommodation costs related to the competition finals for the top-ten selected finalists.
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.
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.
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 top ten teams will be invited to present their business case at NYU Abu Dhabi in April 2020 in front of a panel of VVIP judges.
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.
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.
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 top-ten finalists will have additional networking opportunities during the three-day final event at NYU Abu Dhabi.