UAE highlights food security successes in USA

DUBAI, 5th May, 2019 (WAM) — The UAE’s drive to ensure food security for its citizens was highlighted in the USA last week, when Mariam Hareb Almheiri, Minister of State for Food Security, visited the states of California and Arizona.

Accompanied by Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE Ambassador to the United States, the trip formed part of the minister’s agenda to find out more about international efforts to develop sustainable food production, as well as disseminate information to international audiences about her office’s array of initiatives designed to reduce the UAE’s reliance on imported food.

The Milken Institute Global Conference 2019 was the first stop in the minister’s United States itinerary, with the event taking place on 28th and 29th April in Beverly Hills, California. The annual forum is a key calendar event for the institute, which is an influential non-profit think tank that addresses social issues using market principles and helps business and public policy leaders find ways of creating broad-based prosperity for all.

The opportunity for Almheiri to showcase the array of food security initiatives that are being introduced in the UAE came on day two of the conference, when she took part in a panel discussion titled ‘Ag Tech: Food Security as National Security.’ Participating alongside her at the session, which highlighted how technology is playing a pivotal role in revolutionising food production, were speakers that included Stephen Censky, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture at the US Department of Agriculture and Charlie McNairy, CEO and Chief Investment Officer at the International Farming Corporation.

“Whenever the word ‘security’ is mentioned, we usually default to thinking about national security, the military sector, the threat of attacks on a country’s sovereignty and the physical safety of its people. While these are vital elements of national security, there are other also critically important areas of a country’s security that need to be addressed. One such area which I personally am in involved in the UAE is food security. Food security is a measure of the availability of food and individuals’ access to it. As people around the world see their supply of food threatened by various elements and reasons, food security becomes an increasingly strategic sector,” said Almheiri.

She added, “The UAE has established itself as a world leader in agricultural technology – or ‘Ag-tech’ – as part of its drive to ensure food security for its citizens and with this level of expertise comes a responsibility to pass on our knowledge and experience in this vital area to international audiences.

“Among the achievements I was able to share with food security stakeholders from around the world at the Milken Institute Global Conference 2019 were the development of a Government Accelerator programme for agriculture that kick-started the Ag-tech programme in the UAE. I was able to reveal how we brought in 50 stakeholders for the project and came up with 10 new initiatives in 100 days, in the process, opening up a new economic sector in the UAE,” Almheiri continued.

She went on to note that among the notable achievements that have resulted from the country’s Ag-tech drive are climate-controlled greenhouses that produce 10 times more tomatoes than a same-sized outdoor site while using 70 percent less resources, the world’s first desert ecosystem designed to produce sustainable fuel and food in saltwater, the establishment of an advanced genomics centre in the UAE to study crop dynamics and water harvesting technology, the construction of the world’s largest vertical farm at Dubai International Airport and the creation of the Marine Innovation Park at Sheikh Khalifa Marine Research Centre, SKMRC, which aims to be the leading research and development centre in the region for bioscience technology innovation and marine science.

Following the conclusion of the Milken Institute Global Conference, the minister paid a visit to Arizona State University, ASU, in California’s neighbouring state. There she met with Michael Crow, President of the university and was given an overview of the educational establishment’s efforts in sustainable food production – particularly its work with algae – by Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan, Executive Vice President of ASU Knowledge Enterprise and Chief Research and Innovation Officer.

Among the discussions that took place during Almheiri’s visit were how the UAE Office of Food Security could collaborate with ASU for initiatives at SKRMC’s Marine Innovation Park. She concluded her visit to the university by attending a presentation at ASU’s ‘Decision Theatre,’ an immersive visualisation environment that addresses key social issues by encouraging participants to interact with each other and engage with the visual information around them.

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