60 seconds with… Allen Herbert, VP Business Development, Nanoracks UAE

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60 seconds with… Allen Herbert, VP Business Development, Nanoracks UAE

60 seconds with… Allen Herbert, VP Business Development, Nanoracks UAE

We speak to Allen to find out what kickstarted his interest in space and how Nanoracks is pursuing out-of-this-world AgTech innovation from Abu Dhabi.

1. AgTech in… space?

AgTech in space will not only positively affect human development in exploration and settlement of the universe, but on Earth as well. Much of today’s vertical farming technology came from early space research. In space, everything must be recycled and maximised with limited space, energy, and waste. The same technology and techniques have proven to be useful on Earth.

We see this as an opportunity to use the harsh environments in space to develop commercially viable organisms and products in the fields of AgTech, climate science, sustainability and robotic innovation. Nanoracks is seeking to solve key food sustainability challenges on Earth through innovations in space.

2. Tell us more about the StarLab Centre that’s being built in Abu Dhabi.

Nanoracks announced the first steps in creating an international team of commercial space researchers to tackle the challenge of mitigating the impact of climate change on our planet and food insecurity. We will have the first dedicated commercial research team focused exclusively on using the space environment to produce agricultural products and more efficient regenerative closed environment, autonomous growing, and harvesting techniques. Our first partner is the Abu Dhabi Investment Office.

Our team will bring expertise in bioengineering, plant sciences, genomic seed technology, closed loop environment systems, robotics and automated systems from around the world. These researchers will work closely with our partners in the UAE to rapidly advance to market leadership in the critical areas of climate science and sustainability. We see the UAE as an ideal long-term partner because of its vision in space exploration and understanding of the challenges to long-term food security.

3. What is a typical day at Nanoracks like for you?

A typical day involves managing the office and ensuring our customers are happy. We are also always looking for ways we can advance the space sector here in the UAE and in the other countries in the MEASA region. We see Abu Dhabi as a hub for our activities, and now with the Space Farming Centre in Abu Dhabi being announced, we will be expanding to make an even larger impact. With it, we will be strategising, developing new partnerships and working with the government, local entrepreneurs and universities. All this while also continuing to work closely with our partners in the USA. 

4. What inspired you to pursue a career in space technology? 

I was a Star Trek and Sci-Fi fan growing up. I wanted to be an astronaut from age 7 but that did not happen. Now I can help astronauts get the food they need to explore and establish settlements around the universe, while also contributing to food security on Earth. And the seed for this will be in Abu Dhabi!!

5. What comes to mind when you think of ‘innovation’?

Innovation is when something new is thought of and developed that can really make an impact. For Nanoracks, it is our new Bishop Airlock – this will be the first commercial outlet to space. It was thought of several years ago and now it has become a reality, heading up to the International Space Station in December 2020 on a SpaceX flight. We have developed something that will increase business opportunities in space, a game changer for having a real space economy. 

6. Why is Abu Dhabi a great place to pursue ambitious ideas? 

The quality of life in Abu Dhabi is wonderful, an important factor for those who want to be here to pursue their ideas. Nanoracks came here initially looking at Abu Dhabi as a MEASA regional hub for space. By the turn of the next century, two-thirds of the world’s population will be from this region we are in now. This is impactful. 

Another great factor is that Abu Dhabi-based organisations and the government make it easy to work with local partners, universities, government agencies, private sector organisations and entrepreneurs. 

There is an overall very optimistic atmosphere here in Abu Dhabi. Innovation, imagination and new ideas are celebrated and supported, a formula for continual advancement and impact.

Learn more about Nanoracks here.

Want to make Abu Dhabi part of your growth story? Get in touch with ADIO here.