7 New Zealand agritech companies and research institutes touch down in the UAE

On the week of 21-25 February, 7 New Zealand agritech companies and research institutes were in Dubai to participate in Discover Agritech Middle East, a market validation programme run by NZTE as part of the Expo Business Leverage Programme. The objective of this Discover programme is to allow these organisations to hear from local agritech experts and learn more about the challenges of farming in the UAE’s harsh desert climate and the innovations being deployed to tackle them.

The visit coincided with Expo 2020’s Food, Agriculture and Livelihoods theme week, and participants were able to contribute to and attend global conversations looking at how we sustainably grow food to meet future demand, as well as network with international partners.

We were joined by representatives of Abacus Bio, Future Bees, AgResearch, Gallagher Animal Management, Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC), The New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Limited and OnlyfromNZ.

The group’s first stop was Emirates Bio Farm (EBF), located in Al Ain (Abu Dhabi emirate).

EBF is the UAE’s biggest organic farm and it uses sustainable farming practices not only to produce healthy and nutritious food but also to protect biodiversity. Our agritech companies were really impressed by how much can actually be grown in the desert sand!The UAE already grows over 20% of the fruit and vegetables consumed in the country locally, including tomatoes, raspberries, cucumbers, cabbage, squash and lettuce.

The visitors were shown around by Yazen Al Kodmani, the powerhouse behind this project, who gave them an in-depth understanding of how the farm operates.

The next stop was the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), whose mission is to identify, test and introduce crops and technologies that are best suited to an environment that is affected by salinity, water scarcity and drought. Dr Augusto Becerra, ICBA’s Chief Scientist showed them around and explained the work that the centre does.

Then, Dr Brent Clothier from Plant and Food Research and Lesley Kennedy from OnlyFromNZ conducted an experiment with a Salicornia plant, using aqua brine to demonstrate how technology can adapt to the environment. This is a New Zealand project run at ICBA in partnership with Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi, which has provided the funding and commissioned the project.

All in all, it’s been a successful visit for these organisations to the UAE!

To read more about the UAE’s radical agritech transformation in the past couple of years, read our article and research paper on myNZTE: Agritech opportunities in the UAE - myNZTE