POSTS

1
MAR

Meet Our Judges: Nicole Thorpe

We are proud to announce that we have partnered with an incredible panel of experts to judge The FoodTech Challenge submissions. Our panel is comprised of local and international experts on agriculture from academia, private sector, and policy circles.

We spoke with Nicole Thorpe, Founding Director of Cultinova, to talk about her thoughts about food technology trends in the UAE and abroad.

What is your favorite memory related to food?

Having the luxury of access to a healthy diet, I associate food with quality time with family and friends. One of my fondest memories is about the time I took my children, then 8 and 5 years of age, to a raspberry field on the outskirts of town to hand-pick berries and red currants. I remember how much they enjoyed eating fresh fruit straight off the plant, whilst simultaneously gaining an appreciation of the work involved in harvesting food. When we got home, we made our very own jam. There is nothing better than a pot of jam filled with goodness and memories!

What are the essential components of building a sustainable and healthy food system, particularly in rapidly urbanizing cities?

The clue is in the title: we need to adopt a systems-thinking approach, where we understand and address food systems’ complex interactions and relationships.

With this big picture view, we can create holistic, future-proof systems which adapt to changing urban conditions. Some of the key components to building healthy food systems are:

  • Openness to various business modes (including social enterprise models)
  • Openness to adoption of technology / innovative cultivation methods
  • Policy conducive to entrepreneurial activity and collaboration
  • Youth STEM education that puts greater emphasis on technology and nutrition
  • Consumer awareness of sustainable food production, consumption and waste avoidance

What exciting innovations in Internet of Things technology have promising applications in the UAE?

Given the UAE’s harsh climate and scarcity of arable land and water, I see great potential of applying IoT to the production of crops in Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA). Advances in technology and IoT have facilitated innovative cultivation methods in places previously deemed unsuitable for plant production, such as disused tunnels, warehouses, basements, rooftops, etc. Exciting opportunities exist in the intelligent and dynamic optimization of growth environments tailored to specific contexts, stages of plant development and growers’ goals. The collection of data related to plant development generates a holistic view of food production in CEA.

At Cultinova, we see great value in the precision control of growth parameters, specifically LED lighting and nutrient delivery in CEA. Such fine-tuning of growth factors optimizes water and fertilizer use, reduces energy consumption and improves size and quality of yield.

Surveys have shown that youth are increasingly disengaged from food and agriculture work. How do we renew youth engagement in this area?

In my opinion, IoT provides the ideal platform and tools for youth engagement. Tech-savvy millennials are likely to become more engaged with food and food production using technology. However, more emphasis needs to be placed on STEM education. Incorporating high-tech agriculture, CEA and vertical farming into curricula is essential in engaging and educating the next generation of growers.

What are books, papers, and/or articles that you’re reading about food security that you would recommend?

I recommend the following readings to learn more about food security and systems:

OTHER POSTS

Meet Our Finalists: Pure Harvest Smart Farms

31 August 2020


Pure Harvest Farms is a greenhouse system that allows year-round production of affordable, quality fresh fruits and vegetables. They are 1 of our 12 Finalist Teams who will compete in the upcoming FoodTech Challenge Awards Ceremony. Read more about them below. What makes your team excited about your idea and food technology?: We are excited by the opportunity to contribute towards solving one of the major food security challenges in The Middle East region and globally. The UN projects that the global human population is set to reach 10B by 2050, requiring us collectively to produce 70% more food. With climate change making it more difficult to grow food using traditional open-field methods of farming, technology-driven solutions are needed to meet the challenge of feeding 10B human mouths. In addition, consumer preferences are shifting towards more organic, locally grown products which, along with urbanization, are making it more difficult to deliver food supplies to populations. This sheer challenge presents us with an exciting opportunity to drive change, through innovative food-tech enabled solutions. What is the biggest source of motivation for your team to work on this project?: We as a team are motivated by the prospect of making a significant impact on solving major regional food supply challenges. Since our team began working in the agribusiness sector, we have been approached by senior political leadership from around the region. The opportunity to not only deliver a tangible food product to grateful local consumers but also to advise governments on food security strategy is greatly fulfilling. Could you tell us something unique about your team that makes you a strong contender to be in the Top 4 winners?: Our team has managed to successfully design and deploy an IoT- enabled growing system which is the first to demonstrate year-round production of fresh fruits and vegetables in the UAE. Compared to other more traditional startups in the software or internet sectors, we have collectively overcome huge challenges in constructing an asset-intensive, hardware technology for food production in the Middle East. This has included not only design and engineering work, but also construction, operations, sales, and fundraising (we raised the largest agro-tech seed round in the Middle East history). Lastly, if you are selected as one of the four winners, how does your team plan to use the prize money? Our team will use the prize proceeds to fund much-needed research & development activities on our farm. Among the priorities we are working on include the design of a new automatic roof washer, desert-friendly artificial LED lighting systems, and also a pilot commercial farm to produce algae for Omega-3 fatty acids production.

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31
AUG

Meet Our Finalists: Everfresh Biocoating Technology

31 August 2020


Everfresh Biocating Technology provides nature-based edible food coating to extend shelf-life and reduce food waste. They are 1 of our 12 Finalist Teams who will compete in the upcoming FoodTech Challenge Awards Ceremony. Read more about them below. What makes your team excited about your idea and food technology?: Everfresh addresses two challenges, post-harvest food loss and seafood waste disposal. These represent an economic and environmental burden to the UAE and to the rest of the world. Everfresh’s technology uses a sprayable chitosan-based formulation, which provides a protective, edible coating for agriculture produce while recycling seafood waste. In Everfresh, we utilize the main building block that nature has developed as protective barrier against a multitude of organisms. What makes us excited about our idea is that the application of Everfresh ensures that sustainable objectives will be met. These includes reduction of food waste, reduction of greenhouse gas emission, and positive economic impact. Reduction of food waste equates directly to increased revenue for distributors and retailers, and end consumers will find fruits and vegetables with improved freshness and extended shelf-life. The fact we can reduce food waste, and protect agriculture produce while recycling seafood waste is a win-win situation from a sustainable and economic point of view, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic, when the food security and nutrition of millions of people around the world are affected. In Everfresh, we believe that now more than ever it’s important to join efforts using science alongside nature to secure food supply and minimize food loss and waste. We are excited to start doing our part to make this world a better place, where there is more food for everyone and less waste. A better place for the present and future generations and for the environment. What is the biggest source of motivation for your team to work on this project?: Our biggest motivation is to join the fight against food loss and waste. We aim to promote sustainability practices through the application of our technology to agriculture produce. Our goal is to minimize food loss and waste using natural compounds for both retailers and consumers, and to make the fruits and vegetables last longer, resulting in better-quality and more food available for everyone. The sustainable approach we adopt in Everfresh rely on the use of the seafood industry waste as the main source of the raw material used for our innovative product. Could you tell us something unique about your team that makes you a strong contender to be in the Top 4 winners?: We all come from different academic backgrounds, have expertise in the field of biotechnology, chemical engineering, and sales & marketing. Most importantly, we share the passion and strategic vision of the company to make this business successful and achieve great performance, promoting economic sustainability, and bringing cutting-edge technology to the UAE. Lastly, if you are selected as one of the four winners, how does your team plan to use the prize money? If we are selected as one of the four winners, we plan to join the Catalyst Accelerator Program, and relocate to Abu Dhabi to establish our business. Patent application is among our first priorities once fund is secured as the technology used in Everfresh is novel. The initial investment will be mainly used to rent the facility, acquire equipment, pay operating expenses, conduct further R&D. Everfresh is seeking seed funding to build a pilot production line for the purpose of proof of concept, entering the market, building the brand awareness and attracting potential customers, and preparing its commercial launch. Everfresh team also seeks to contribute a specific percentage of the award money for charity purposes, particularly helping cancer patients.

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31
AUG

Meet Our Finalists: Jones Food Company

31 August 2020


Jones Food Company is an automated sustainable vertical farm driven by AI. They are 1 of our 12 Finalist Teams who will compete in the upcoming FoodTech Challenge Awards Ceremony. Read more about them below. What makes your team excited about your idea and food technology?: Vertical farming technology brings agriculture and food production to locations and areas which were previously limited by a number of factors including; climate, space, and resources. At Jones Food Company we are on a mission to be the World’s Farm, producing food for everyone, everywhere such that we are never limited in what we want to eat and how we feed our society. JFC’s idea so exciting because we bring this technology – and its huge potential – to the masses by constructing farms at affordable prices both for builders but also for the end customer. We believe we are unique in the vertical farming industry in this regard. What is the biggest source of motivation for your team to work on this project?: To achieve our vision; building reliable vertical farms – at scale – around the world in order to improve the ways we farm and consume food. Could you tell us something unique about your team that makes you a strong contender to be in the Top 4 winners?: Our team brings a hugely diverse set of experiences and achievements to one common goal. We also bring a huge range of corporate experience from the likes of Jaguar Land Rover and Gazprom to owning and operating our own consumer businesses and across functions such as strategy, finance, operations, recruitment, construction, and consumer retail. This combination of experience alongside our clarity of vision has created a truly dynamic team. We truly believe our technology is solving a problem that we can implement effectively. Lastly, if you are selected as one of the four winners, how does your team plan to use the prize money? Construction. Expanding into international markets carries plenty of risks so JFC plans to use this prize money to reduce risks associated with entering the U.A.E market, kick-starting the construction of a new vertical farm growing leafy greens within miles of the end consumer and harvesting on the very same day the produce is eaten.

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31
AUG