The GCC countries are spearheading and taking the advantage of technology in order to overcome the shortcoming of their desert ecosystem and improve the domestic supply of food. As the implementation of technology in agriculture is increasing, it is hoped that the marginal ecosystems would gradually be capable of producing high quantities of food with minimal resource utilization. The only way to confront climate change and adequately feed the increasing world population is through investment in technology and innovation which would require increased engagement of both public as well as private sector. On an estimate, around 2,000 hectares of cultivable soil is lost each day to salt-induced degradation and therefore the urgent need for technology, innovation, research and development in agriculture and food production cannot be stressed more. The way ahead seems to be diversification of agricultural production systems. We will be needing better and more efficient technologies in agriculture as we move forward because the demand for food is expected to be doubled by 2050 to keep up with the growing population. By introducing insect-resistant crops and gene technology, sustainable food production can be achieved. As resources are the most vulnerable entities to climate change, we must ensure that they are efficiently and judiciously utilized which can be done through diversification of crops.
Another major issue is regarding the growing problem of food wastage in the middle east food and beverage industry and in Saudi Arabia alone, food worth 13.3 billion USD is wasted annually. The food and beverage industry in the middle east need to implement advanced technology and innovation so as to find a solution to this food waste dilemma.
Moreover, with the introduction of smart kitchens, there would be reduction of repetitive manual labor which plays a huge role in food preparation and in addition there would also be lesser food wastage during food preparation which seems to be a problem for most kitchens worldwide. This concept can be integrated into the current food industry through innovations in kitchen equipment and developing a data mining system which, based on historical figures, enables chefs to predict the quantity of food that would be ordered on a particular day.
Currently, Dubai is setting an example for other GCC regions regarding augmentation of technology and innovation in food production. They have created controlled environments for cultivation so as to deal with agricultural limitations. Innovations in science have stimulated food production systems like aquaponics and hydroponics to cultivate various crops across the GCC.
With the advent of automation, artificial intelligence and industry 4.0, there has been an immense impact on local, regional and international food production. Moreover, breakthrough improvements in the logistics and storage systems have led to creation of smart and efficient warehouses which are also interconnected with less dependence on labor.
Another important development is aquaculture, which means farming of fish and other aquatic creatures and organisms in controlled conditions in saltwater and freshwater.
Vertical farming is another development which involves growing plants in vertical stacked layers in an indoor environment to control the environmental factors. It uses artificial light, regulated humidity, adjustable temperature and minimal usage of pesticides. This enables production and supply of vegetables in massive quantities throughout the year without dependence on sunlight, soil and chemicals.
In the UAE, when it comes to providing benefits to the country’s agricultural sector, remote-controlled drones have also come into the picture as unmanned aerial vehicles are being used to map farming areas across the country. These drones are being used to develop an incredibly accurate agricultural database which in turn would lead to optimum use of resources and identification of prime cultivation areas. In addition to this, GPS monitors, accelerators and sensor equipped gyroscopes are being used to improve the production of crops by ensuring the best and optimal use of soil and water and precise irrigation techniques to curb wastage of water. The benefits of artificial intelligence combined with automation is limitless.
Other important developments include augmentation of a laser-based lighting technology which helps the crops grow more productively and technology converting organic waste into soil conditioners which are adapted to the climate of deserts. Both aim to overcome food and water scarcity problems and curbing environmental damage resulting from organic waste.