United Arab Emirates (UAE) Minister for Food and Water Security Mariam Al-Muhairi met Wednesday with representatives of Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) to promote a research and innovation partnership based on FoodTech and Agtech. As part of her visit, Al-Muhairi met with HU’s Professor Mona Khoury-Kassabri, VP of Strategy and Diversity, Professor Benny Chefetz, Dean of The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, faculty researchers, and Moshe Nadler, CEO of Agricora.
In September 2018, Al-Muhairi announced plans for Food Valley, a food technology hub in the UAE, referencing California’s Silicon Valley. In January 2019, she was made an overseer of the Security and Foreign Affairs sector of the UAE’s National Expert Program. In the same month, she launched the UAE Food Security Strategy, consisting of five pillars: diversification of sources of food imports, research and development to increase domestic food production, reduction of food waste, maintenance of food safety standards, and increasing the UAE’s ability to respond to crises.
The admittedly ambitious goal of Al-Muhairi’s strategy is to see UAE’s place on the Global food security index advance from 31st to first place by 2051.
The meeting at HU marked the first official visit of a senior UAE government official to an Israeli academic institution since Israel and the UAE announced they would normalize ties as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords.
Among the topics discussed were plant adaptation to heat and desert-like conditions, intelligent uses of water, and the latest innovations in agriculture. Both Israel and the UAE are keenly interested in finding the most efficient use of their resources and in securing high-quality seed- and food production in this age of climate change and global warming.
As Dean Chefetz shared, “The UAE Minister’s visit to Hebrew University is both prescient and historic. Hebrew U. is known as a world leader in foodtech and agtech. We look forward to sharing our know-how with our neighbors in the Middle East so that we may meet the challenges of climate change together and better prepared.”
The picture that was sent out together with the press release about the historic meeting by HU was captioned: “Benny Chefetz, Dean of HU’s Agriculture School, and Mariam Al-Muhairi, UAE Minister for Food and Water Security talk tomatoes.” And while tomatoes are not Israeli in origin, Israeli scientists have developed them into a tasty, long-lasting and nutritious food, according to the website Aardvark. Israel produces hundreds of thousands of tons of tomatoes every year, but more important than the fruit are Israeli tomato seeds, which are in demand across the world.
Some Israeli tomato seeds are literally worth their weight in gold and this is all thanks to the hard work being carried out in laboratories around the country. While the tomato may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Israel, you should definitely be aware that it is another of the many areas where Israeli scientists have greatly helped to improve the world.