More than USD 30 million of additional AgTech deals in Abu Dhabi’s pipeline

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More than USD 30 million of additional AgTech deals in Abu Dhabi’s pipeline

23 Sep 2020

The Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) announced today upcoming developments in Abu Dhabi’s agriculture sector as part of continued plans to bolster local AgTech capabilities and innovations in desert agriculture. In the coming months, more than AED 110 million (USD 30 million) in financial incentives are to be offered to AgTech companies looking to establish or fast track their growth in Abu Dhabi.

The update was given at ADIO’s first sector-focused webinar, “Inside Abu Dhabi: Innovation in Agriculture”, which took place on 23 September and highlighted opportunities in the emirate’s AgTech space. The webinar was attended by participants from all across the world, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel and India.

The new pipeline is part of ADIO’s incentive programme, established under the Abu Dhabi Government’s Ghadan 21 accelerator programme. The incentive packages include competitive financial incentives and other non-financial benefits for companies that develop and commercialise new arid and desert agriculture solutions based on pre-determined criteria.

The new deals will build on the milestones achieved by the four AgTech pioneers – AeroFarms, Madar Farms, Responsive Drop Irrigation (RDI) and RNZ – ADIO partnered with  earlier this year to establish R&D and production facilities in the emirate.

H.E. Dr. Tariq Bin Hendi, Director General of ADIO, said: “We have made significant headway towards realising our mission of turning sand into farmland, prioritising innovation that has the potential to make real, lasting change in the region and beyond. Despite the current global conditions, 2020 will be a transformational year for AgTech in Abu Dhabi as we close in on deals to bring more pioneering companies to the UAE. We will continue to work closely with ecosystem players like the Food Security Office, the Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority (ADAFSA) and ADQ to support AgTech founders and startups with the resources and infrastructure they require to achieve long-term success in the emirate.”

ADIO announced in April that it made AED 367 million (USD 100 million) in financial incentives available to four AgTech pioneers, partnering individually with AeroFarms, Madar Farms, RDI and RNZ to establish new R&D and production facilities in Abu Dhabi. During the first “Inside Abu Dhabi” webinar, each company announced significant milestones in their respective projects over the past five months.

USA-headquartered vertical farming company AeroFarms has set up its corporate office at Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) to plug into the emirate’s innovation ecosystem and support R&D plans aimed at tackling agriculture problems within desert and arid climates. The company has also built out a local team, including hiring a general manager to lead AeroFarms’ Abu Dhabi strategy.

David Rosenberg, Co-Founder and CEO of AeroFarms, commented: “Our excitement grows as we advance in Abu Dhabi the building of the world’s largest R&D indoor vertical farm in the world. We have set up corporate offices and started to build out an incredible team including our General Manager. We are working to finalise partnerships to co-innovate together in our Abu Dhabi facility as we work to solve some of the most pressing problems in agriculture in the region and the world. We are honoured to be working closely with ADIO to make Abu Dhabi a nexus for AgTech innovation and we encourage companies and universities to reach out and partner with us as we work on the next generation of agriculture breakthroughs.”

Madar Farms, a home-grown UAE AgTech innovator, has made significant progress in developing the local food offering in the market. The company has launched new products and is reaching consumers through expanded distributors and platforms. It is also partnering with a UAE education institution to teach students about AgTech and hydroponic systems, educating them about sustainable indoor agriculture from an early age.

Abdulaziz AlMulla, CEO and Co-Founder of Madar Farms, said: “We are happy to be part of the conversation. At Madar Farms, we are already leading a new agriculture revolution by growing a wide range of high-quality fresh produce every day here in the UAE with the use of advanced farming technologies. We want to create a lasting change by providing a holistic approach to sustainability and every day we are working towards achieving our vision and establishing Abu Dhabi as a global AgTech leader.”

RDI, which has developed an innovative irrigation system to transform water usage in UAE agriculture, has secured a facility in Abu Dhabi’s integrated trade, logistics and industrial hub, KIZAD, to be used for industrial research, product manufacturing and distribution. Given the emirate’s strategic location at the intersection of the Middle East, Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia regions, the new distribution hub will allow RDI to reach more water-stressed countries that can benefit from its irrigation solution. The company is also set to install pilot projects using green technologies in Abu Dhabi over the coming months, paving the way for the development of the best AgTech practices in desert environments.

Jan Gould, Co-Founder and CEO of RDI, commented: “The foresight and vision of Abu Dhabi’s ruler and its government leaders to focus and support innovations in agriculture has defined the UAE capital as a leader in ensuring food security for its citizens, developing local food supply chains, addressing challenges and preserving the planet’s precious resources for the future. Responsive Drip Irrigation is committed to working with ADIO and our partners in the AgTech programme to build a greener tomorrow for generations to come. With Abu Dhabi’s leadership and support, there is hope for recovery if we all work together. We just need to plant the seed.”

RNZ, which produces customised solutions for farming communities, has broken ground on a plot in KIZAD and laid the foundations for its new R&D centre, expected to be operational towards the end of the first half of 2021. The team is steadily being assembled with both a Head of Research and Head of Production appointed. The centre will look into developing effective agri-inputs to yield higher productivity, with an early focus being the development of 100% organic and residue-free solutions to support the region’s date palm farmers.   

Raza Soomar, CEO of RNZ, said: “As our new R&D centre in Abu Dhabi begins to take shape, we are just months away from looking into solving problems for farmers and bringing effective solutions to the market that are relevant in Africa, Asia and the Gulf. We are proud to be part of Abu Dhabi’s AgTech ecosystem and excited about the possibilities for RNZ’s new R&D hub.”

ADIO will announce further details of its upcoming AgTech deals in the coming months.