ADIO allocates AED 152 million to agritech startups

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Source: WAM

The Abu Dhabi Investment Office, ADIO, announced individual partnerships with Pure Harvest Smart Farms, Pure Harvest, FreshToHome and Nanoracks that will see the companies receive financial and non-financial incentives totaling AED 152 million (USD 41 million). The research and technologies developed by these companies will expand existing capabilities in Abu Dhabi’s AgTech ecosystem and promote innovation in the sector to address global food security challenges.

The new partnerships are a continuation of ADIO’s efforts to accelerate the growth of Abu Dhabi’s AgTech ecosystem through the AgTech Incentive Programme, which was established under Ghadan 21, Abu Dhabi’s accelerator programme. The Programme is open to both local and international AgTech companies. The partnerships follow ADIO’s AED 367 million (USD 100 million) investment earlier this year to bring four AgTech pioneers – AeroFarms, Madar Farms, RNZ and Responsive Drip Irrigation, RDI, – to the emirate to develop next-generation agriculture solutions in arid and desert climates.

Dr. Tariq Bin Hendi, Director General of ADIO, said: "Abu Dhabi is pressing ahead at full steam with our mission to ‘turn the desert green’ and solve long-term global food security issues. We have created an environment where innovative ideas can flourish and this has enabled the rapid expansion of our AgTech sector. Innovations from the companies we partnered with earlier this year are already propelling the growth of Abu Dhabi’s 24,000 farms. Partnering with Pure Harvest, FreshToHome and Nanoracks adds a realm of new capabilities to the ecosystem across land, sea and space."

Bin Hendi continued: "We are driving innovation across the entire agriculture value chain and this is producing a compounding effect that is benefiting farmers, innovators and companies in our region and beyond."

Pure Harvest, FreshToHome and Nanoracks have been awarded financial and non-financial incentives to expand operations in Abu Dhabi. The competitive incentive packages include rebates on innovation-linked high-skilled payroll, high-tech CAPEX, as well as land, utility and intellectual property support.

Since the beginning of 2020, ADIO has attracted seven AgTech companies to Abu Dhabi, each bringing a complementary skill to expand the ecosystem. ADIO’s new partnerships with Pure Harvest, FreshToHome and Nanoracks will build on the achievements made by AeroFarms, Madar Farms, RNZ and RDI, the AgTech pioneers ADIO partnered with earlier this year to establish R&D and production facilities in Abu Dhabi.

Pure Harvest is a home-grown, tech-enabled farming venture that uses cutting-edge food production systems to grow fresh fruits and vegetables in a climate-controlled environment, enabling year-round production anywhere, while using seven times less water compared to traditional farming methods. Pure Harvest will invest in smart farming and infrastructure technologies at its new farms in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, to optimise growing conditions through hardware design innovations, artificial intelligence, autonomous growing and robotics, plant science research and desert-optimised machines. The company will also progress R&D and deployment of a commercial-scale algae bioreactor production facility that will grow higher quality, healthier Omega-3 fatty acids without the limitations and challenges of traditional animal sources.

Sky Kurtz, Co-Founder and CEO of Pure Harvest, said: "We are delighted to have received the support of ADIO to further invest in our home-grown, innovative growing solutions. It also serves as a powerful endorsement of our business case and mission as we pursue innovation to address food security locally and internationally. As one of the pioneering champions in the region’s emerging AgTech sector, this commitment will give us the resources we need to drive and expand our R&D capabilities and will position us for international expansion from our strategic base in Abu Dhabi. This partnership further demonstrates how committed the government is in supporting and enabling innovative technology companies, providing them with the tools, resources and support to thrive and make a large-scale impact in the region."

FreshToHome is an e-grocery platform for fresh, chemical-free produce. The company maintains complete control over its supply chain, inventory and logistics by obtaining produce directly from the source through an AI-powered auction process. ADIO’s partnership will aid the expansion of FreshToHome’s land and sea operational and processing capabilities in the UAE, bringing expertise in aquaculture, contract farming for marine and freshwater fish species and precision agriculture to Abu Dhabi. It will also invest in innovative fish farming technologies and cold chain.

Shan Kadavil, CEO and Co-Founder of FreshToHome, said: "At FreshToHome we use cutting-edge research in AI and precision aquaculture for furthering food security in a sustainable manner while also giving better value to consumers, fishermen and farmers. To this end, we intend to bring our US patent pending AI-powered Virtual Commodities Exchange technology, our e-grocery platform and our nano farm aquaculture technology to Abu Dhabi, enhancing food production and distribution for the region. ADIO has been a terrific partner to us and we are thankful for their support in helping us be part of the vision."

US-based Nanoracks is the single largest commercial user of the International Space Station and is building the first-ever commercial AgTech space research programme. Nanoracks’ ‘StarLab Space Farming Center’ in Abu Dhabi will be a commercial space research facility focused on advancing knowledge and technology for organisms and food produced in space and in equally extreme climates on Earth. The space-based technology will be applied to desert agriculture to address pressing environmental and food security challenges and to benefit long-term human space exploration.

Allen Herbert, SVP of Business Development and Strategy, and Head of Nanoracks, UAE, said: "Much of today’s technology used for vertical, urban and closed environment agriculture initially came from space research from 30 years ago, and Nanoracks is ready to synergise these technologies back to in-space exploration. We firmly believe that space research holds the keys to solving major challenges on Earth from climate change to food security. And our StarLab Space Farming Center in Abu Dhabi is just the beginning. We’re building a global research and development team that will produce and commercialise organisms, technology, and innovative products that will not only revolutionise farming in Earth’s deserts and harsh environments, but also change the way humans are able to explore deeper into our universe."

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