Source: The National
Abu Dhabi Investment Office (Adio) invested $100 million (Dh367m) to bring four agriculture technology companies to the emirate as part of government efforts to attract high-skilled talent and cutting-edge research.
Adio partnered with AeroFarms, Madar Farms, RNZ and RDI to build new agri-tech research and development (R&D) facilities and production centres in Abu Dhabi, it said on Thursday. The idea is to explore how arid-climate countries can benefit from these technologies.
"It's quite significant because it's in line with Abu Dhabi's long-term ambitions through these programmes to attract technology, R&D, high-skilled labour ... but also to use this as a platform to expand, trial and refine these technologies and export them to the world with Abu Dhabi having led these initiatives," Tariq Bin Hendi, director general of Adio, said in an interview.
Last year, Adio launched a targeted incentive programme to accelerate the growth of the emirate’s developing AgTech scene and promote innovation that is relevant locally and can be exported globally. To date, Adio allocated nearly 40 per cent of its Dh1 billion agri-tech incentive programme, which is part of the government’s Ghadan 21 accelerator initiative.
The deal, which has been in the making for six to seven months, will see Adio support the companies operating in the emirate from set-up to commercialisation, Mr Bin Hendi said.
"We've got 24,000 farms here, so based on that, what kind of technologies can we use to drive efficiencies in crop yield, water usage and so on. Some of these companies we're looking for address some of these requirements," he said.
Partnering with these firms to further develop the agri-tech base in Abu Dhabi could also attract other companies in the sector to plug into the R&D centres here, while the four companies are also partnering with one another, he said.
Four companies, four challenges
Each of the four companies is tasked with solving regional and global challenges.
US-headquarted AeroFarms conducts research while also tackling the challenges of desert agriculture from its new 8,200-square metre R&D centre in Abu Dhabi. The centre will be the biggest indoor vertical farm of its kind in the world, according to Adio, and projected to employ more than 60 highly-skilled engineers, horticulturists and scientists.
Madar Farms, a home-grown UAE firm, will build the world’s first commercial-scale indoor tomato farm using only LED lights in Kizad. The company is also set to scale up the commercialisation of micro-green growing to help provide a consistent local food supply that responsibly uses the region's natural resources.
RDI is developing an irrigation system to transform water usage in UAE agriculture and conducting research trials to increase crop yields in sandy soils and non-arable land.
Locally-based firm RNZ will set up an R&D centre to research, formulate and commercialise "agri-input" solutions that will help to grow more with less.
Adio offered a package of cash and non-cash incentives to the companies including rebates of up to 75 per cent on R&D expenditure upon commercialisation of new solutions developed in Abu Dhabi, it said.
The companies will benefit from "plentiful land, natural heat, competitive energy prices and access to research universities and skilled talent", according to the statement.
Many of Abu Dhabi’s 24,000 farms use modern irrigation and specific techniques designed to grow produce in minimal water.
Adio has a "very healthy pipeline" of companies at various stages of discussions and is pursuing other companies that can benefit from establishing a base in the emirate, Mr Bin Hendi said, without disclosing details.
"We've been looking across the technology spectrum in agriculture and proactively reaching out to many of the entities and institutions globally that we think could benefit from being in Abu Dhabi, our programme supporting their ambitions and the long-term aspirations we both have," he said.
"We do have quite a few firms in our pipeline now in various stages of discussion... there's more in pipeline, there's more to come."