The Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) announced today it will invest AED 152 million (~$41 million USD) across three ag tech companies to develop new ag tech innovations on land, at sea, and in space. According to a press release sent to The Spoon, ADIO has partnered with U.S.-based Nanoracks, India-based FreshToHome, and UAE-based Pure Harvest for the initiatives.
ADIO said in today’s press release that the new partnerships will promote more innovation in ag tech specifically as it relates to food security challenges. One major issue highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic is the fragility of the global food system. In response, various countries, including Singapore, China, and those in the European Union, are fostering innovation at the government level in an effort to improve local food production, build more traceability into the supply chain, and establish more trust between consumers and food producers.
In the United Arab Emirates, one regionally specific challenge is growing more food in a desert climate, in which the ag industry deals with minimal water supply, non-arable land, and climate change issues like drought and rising temperatures. ADIO’s investments are in companies that can both assist in solving these regional challenges and address the issue of food security on a global scale.
Hence, space farming. Nanoracks, one of ADIO’s three new partners, uses the International Space Station and is building the first-ever space research program for ag tech. Its StarLab Space Farming Center in Abu Dhabi will research facility focused on food production both in space and in “equally extreme climates on Earth.” (Spoon readers will recognize Nanoracks as the company that made the Zero G oven, capable of baking cookies in space.)
ADIO’s FreshToHome partnership, meanwhile, will expand the latter’s operational and processing capabilities across land and sea in the UAE. FreshToHome operates an e-commerce platform for fresh produce and controls every point along the supply chain. ADIO said in today’s release that the partnership will also focus on innovations for fish farming and cold chain technology.
Finally, Pure Harvest will use the new partnership to advance its technology and processes for produce grown in controlled environments. That includes more artificial intelligence, robotics and automation, and machines optimized for desert temperatures. The company will also advance work on its commercial-scale algae bioreactor facility to grow Omega-3 fatty acids.
The new partnerships are part of ADIO’s AgTech Incentive Programme, which the Abu Dhabi Government’s Ghadan 21 Accelerator Programme established in 2019. Previous investments from the AgTech Incentive Programme include the $100 million (USD) investment ADIO made in April across four companies: AeroFarms, Madar Farms, Responsive Drip Irrigation, and RNZ.