Smart technology has revolutionised how our societies operate and work. The hospitality industry is no exception. With its reliance on safe and secure supply chains, the industry is looking to adopt and integrate smart technology throughout their procurement and operational processes. This comes as supply chain disruption becomes frequently more apparent with shifting geopolitical forces bringing these issues into the limelight; basic foodstuffs are being impacted affecting consumers and the hospitality sector across the globe.
“Globally, our agricultural systems will have to produce more food in the next fifty years than was grown in the last 500 – all due to humanity’s exponential population growth. Over the past six months, we’ve seen a range of key agricultural commodities experiencing high price volatility. That includes key foodstuffs, such as wheat, maize and rice. It’s clear the vulnerability that exists within the global food supply network.”
That’s according to Professor Chris Elliott, the co-founders of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast. Professor Elliott participated at EXPO 2020 and discussed with government officials and industry leaders the importance of the global food system. Ensuring that the sector is constantly innovating with the latest technology is critical in maintaining a safe and secure global food supply chain.
The Middle East is seeking to adopt and integrate smart technologies such as seed breeding, machine learning, and robotics into its agricultural practices to ensure a durable and sustainable agricultural sector, and is working with both local and international companies to achieve their food security goals. Take the UAE as an example. The nation is creating an integrated modern city that can serve as a hub for future clean tech-based food and agricultural products. The centre will further provide an incubator to enable collaboration between researchers, entrepreneurs, startups, and industry leaders. From government agencies and research organisations, to local farms and F&B companies, the UAE is collectively working to find its own solutions to strengthen their agricultural supply chains.
“Food security is an important factor globally,” Invest NI’s Senior Business Development Manager for the UAE, Oman, and Bahrain, Scott Hanna, said. “In Northern Ireland we have a number of innovative, cutting-edge technology companies that are set to transform how we produce and manage the food on our table. Our technology ecosystem is closely linked with key academic institutions, ensuring tight collaboration between universities and businesses.”
Hanna added, “The appointment in 2017 of the Minister of State for Food Security, Her Excellency Mariam Almheiri, now Minister of Climate Change and the Environment, was a clear indication of the priority the nation places on food security as well as the establishing the Emirates Food Security Council which introduced the National Food Security Strategy. Through high-level strategic frameworks and smart investments, the UAE’s federal government is securing the future of its agricultural practice – an impressive target for the wider development of the nation.”
The black soil of Northern Ireland may seem a long way from the palm trees in Al Ain and Fujairah. Yet Northern Ireland has much to offer Emirati farms, businesses, and government entities looking to integrate cutting-edge AgriTech solutions into the very heart of the UAE food and manufacturing sector.
“Food security is all about simplicity. It’s about making it easy and straightforward for buyers to control what they get: the right supplier, the right product, and the right quality – at the best price on the market,” says Paul Armstrong at Foods Connected, a Northern Ireland technology company that through the power of cloud computing, allows food producers to have critical oversight on food supply chains and make the right call for their business. “For companies in the Middle East,” continued Paul, “ensuring that food security does not compromise the quality or quantity of products produced is a major concern to ensure long-term commercial growth.”
CropSafe, one of the companies leading Northern Ireland’s technology revolution, is using thousands of satellite images, combined with advanced machine learning capabilities. They help farmers detect disease, destructive weather, or issues with irrigation – all to help keep farmers’ crops secure. While the technology was developed on the fields of Northern Ireland, CropSafe took part in EXPO 2020 to talk on how farms across the Middle East can protect their operations and, in turn, produce a stronger yield.
That’s not all that Northern Ireland’s AgriTech companies have to offer the Middle East. Randox who have been instrumental in Covid Testing in the region, also have a Food Diagnostic division which enables producers and suppliers to test for identifying antibiotic/hormones and mycotoxin residues. These residues can be harmful for humans when ingested over a period of time. Randox continues to develop additional tests to ensure safer food for all across the globe. Devenish Nutrition, one of Northern Ireland’s largest AgriTech companies, who have offices across the Middle East, develop feed for chickens that is packed with Omega3 and fatty acids helping to enrich the meat to the benefit of the consumer and the hospitality industry.
Food security is a central topic for the development of the region, and is set to continue. By investing in the right technology at this juncture, the Middle East can ensure that its supply chains remain resilient and robust against ever-changing international headwinds.