Tuesday June 07, 2022
Masdar City, DANA to advance food security at national level
DANA supports women-led start-ups across the sectors of agritech, energy and water solutions.
Masdar City, the regional home of technology innovation and R&D in Abu Dhabi, and DANA, the Abu Dhabi-based venture builder and investment platform, have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to advance food security at the national level, contribute to agritech sustainability, and support the UAE in meeting key objectives in line with the National Food Security Strategy 2051.
Under the agreement, Masdar City and DANA, which supports women-led start-ups across the sectors of agritech, energy and water solutions, and circular economy, will build its first Abu Dhabi-based beta site in Masdar City. The beta site will test the feasibility of early-stage agritech projects that can be developed and piloted in Abu Dhabi. Upon completion, it will focus on local and regional start-ups with solutions between the “pre-seed” and “Series A” development phases.
Commenting on the new partnership, Ahmed Baghoum, Acting Executive Director, Masdar City, said, “R&D has always been the catalyst for bringing innovative projects to life, driving essential reform, and delivering positive change across industries and society. As the only planned and approved R&D cluster in Abu Dhabi, Masdar City, will ensure these outcomes continue. It will play a central role in shaping the sustainable industries of tomorrow by welcoming start-ups, and supporting their projects as they transition from creative concepts to effective forces for good in their designated fields.”
The beta facility will ensure companies from the UAE, and wider MENA have the infrastructure and guidance required to overcome food security challenges and resource scarcity in desert locations. Several National Food Security Strategy 2051 priorities will be boosted, including enhancing local production, enabling sustainable food production through modern technologies, and diversifying food sources via partnership development.
The partnership has already begun engaging with venture capitalists and incubators from across the MENA region to offer services to portfolio companies as the agritech sector grows. The regional agriculture market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5.7 percent through 2026.
Zada Haj, co-founder and CEO of DANA, said, “We witness the Abu Dhabi ecosystem’s potential on a daily basis, however, the option for hands-on testing of the tech solutions in the field is often missing. For the agritech sector, a pivot is more than just a new line of code, so the product needs to be tested for its feasibility, accessibility, and affordability as early as possible.”
Operating for nearly two years, DANA, founded by three women, has served as a venture builder and investment platform for women-led desert tech start-ups since its establishment. The new beta site will emphasise the importance of providing opportunities for the UAE’s female founders to scale, aligning with the UAE National Agenda surrounding women empowerment.
When completed, the site will consist of 1,700 square metres of greenhouses, net houses, and open field farming, displaying diverse approaches to the sustainable production of crops in the desert. Furthermore, the beta site will focus on developing solutions with the potential to overcome water scarcity, irrigation, greenhouse cooling, soil cultivation and regeneration challenges and testing the resilience of new seed varieties.
With many start-ups already submitting applications to test at Masdar City, construction is set to begin in July 2022 before full-time operations are set to start by Q4 this year.
Masdar City in Abu Dhabi is one of the world’s most sustainable developments. It is a working model for cities around the world in environmental, economic, and social sustainability, and continues to push the boundaries of innovation. The City hosts Abu Dhabi’s only planned and approved R&D cluster; Masdar City Free Zone, which is a growing hub for sustainability-focused innovative businesses; and a residential neighborhood with restaurants, shops, sporting facilities and public green spaces.
Masdar City is home to companies dedicated to developing innovations across the sectors of renewables, space, energy storage, artificial intelligence, agriculture, health, and mobility. These include, the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the UAE Space Agency, the regional headquarters of Siemens Energy, G42 Healthcare, the Advanced Technology Research Council, several Fortune 500 companies, hundreds of entrepreneurs, a startup accelerator program via The Catalyst, and the world’s first university dedicated to artificial intelligence: the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence. Masdar City has also pioneered two generations of autonomous vehicles and continues to extend the frontiers of alternative and sustainable transport.