The Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA) under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority was declared open in Abu Dhabi by His Excellency Dr. Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi Minister of Climate Change and Environment, in the presence of Her Excellency Mariam Bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Al Mehairi – Minister of State for Future Food Security; His Excellency Eng. Sheikh Salem Bin Sultan Al Qasimi; and His Excellency Saeed Albahri Salem Alameri – Director General of Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority.
Running from 5th to 6th February, GFIA is being held at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) and will see the participation of around 600 exhibitors displaying their cutting-edge products and services and over 50 game-changing innovations being presented in the conference for the first time over the next two days, cementing GFIA's position as the world's largest showcase of agricultural technology innovation.
On behalf of His Highness Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, His Excellency Dr. Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi Minister of Climate Change and Environment in the opening speech said: "The forum will generate meaningful debate, actions, partnerships and opportunities to help us – in just 33 years from now – produce at least 60% more food than we do today to feed a global population of 9 billion. Given the growing scarcity of fresh water, the scale of degradation of arable land and the increasing volatility of weather as a result of the changing climate, the task at hand is immense. The globalised nature of the food supply chain means that no country, region or continent is immune to food insecurity. This is a challenge that transcends national borders and is one felt acutely here in the Middle East, where burgeoning populations in arid regions are placing a strain on the capacity of nations to feed their citizens."
"Here in the UAE we are among the countries in the region that stand in the vanguard of those supporting agricultural innovations and scientific research. This country has had a unique experience in this area. In spite of the hard climatic conditions and water scarcity, the country has succeeded, thanks to political will and the adoption of modern farming techniques, in developing a sustainable farming sector that protects the environment and contributes to meeting some of the food requirements of the country."
"Yet we recognise the need for global expertise, and welcome the opportunity for international involvement in the regional agricultural sector. Abu Dhabi is ideally located on the shores of the Arabian Gulf, at the heart of the world's largest arid region. There is the potential for innovative water-saving technologies, hydroponics and high-tech agriculture, amongst many technologies, to be deployed here to great success."
He added "The public sector, the private sector and the not-for-profit sector must all work hand in hand. Organisations conducting research must adopt an open access policy whereby research and new technological breakthroughs can be shared to speed up both innovation and deployment of technology. Nations must join together to solve this most pressing of challenges.
He closed by welcome the world to Abu Dhabi and added: "I urge each and every one of you to play your part in cultivating change to ensure that our future is a food-secure one."
The opening ceremony included a keynote speech presented by H.E. Eng. Sheikh Salem Bin Sultan Al Qasimi on the important role of apiculture in agriculture, ahead of the First International Conference of Arab Beekeepers Association and official launch of the Arab Beekeeping Association, which will operate under the umbrella of the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development (AOAD) and in cooperation with the International Federation of Beekeepers' Associations (Apimondia), to develop the bee industry in the Arab world. Membership of the Organization is open to all interested academics, beekeepers, and any beekeeping-related entity.
He highlighted: "Animals pollinate over 80% of flowering plants. Among these animals, bees are by far the most important, with around 25,000 different species worldwide. As they search for food, bees carry pollen from place to place, making reproduction possible for the majority of plant species, both wild and cultivated. This makes bees essential to the production of many fruits and vegetables, the life of pastures and forests and the diet of humans and domesticated and wild animals. So, with this goal in mind, alongside our partners in the industry we shall help to preserve our planet and its inhabitants in a vital sector for the region."
Prof. Dr. Ahmed bin Abdullah Al-Khazem Al-Ghamdi- Chairman of Arab Beekeeping Association added: "We are pleased to inaugurate the first formal beekeeping organization in the Arab world, as we seek to put all our expertise and capabilities in the service of beekeepers in the public and private sectors in the region. We are also open to cooperation with all stakeholders to achieve the best outcomes that serve our socienty, and promote development and advancement of scientific, technical, environmental, social, technological and economic aspects of beekeeping. We look forward to encouraging cooperation and fruitful partnerships between beekeeping associations, scientific bodies and individuals interested in this vital sector in the Arab world."
A further keynote speech was given by AgUnity Founder and CEO David Davis who work to empower developing world farmers through crypto ledger and mobile apps said: "Our smartphone and blockchain app is called AgriLedger, and it helps farmers plan, trade and share securely. It solves the problem that when the farmer hands their produce to a cooperative there is a secure record to ensure everyone gets paid. It creates a circle of trust for small farmer co-operatives to improve efficiency in developing countries and help farmers retain a bigger share of their crop value. In a world first, AgUnity has adapted the technology to provide precise food traceability for the consumer with a use of a QR code, for example on a bar of chocolate, to precisely shows every step of production right back to a video of the farmer, his family and his farm." Which he demonstrated 'live' at the opening ceremony.
Thamer Al Qasemi, Chairman of the GFIA 2018 Organizing Committee commenting on the opening of GFIA said: "Since its launch in 2014, GFIA Abu Dhabi has received major recognition for its commitment to challenging the way food is produced, and creating modern and advanced models that promote the development of production processes through the use of artificial intelligence and the adoption of more environmentally friendly and sustainable technologies . This year's edition will once again showcase the Emirate's leading status as a top destination for high-caliber international exhibitions and events in this vital domain."
Al Qasemi pointed out that the first day of the forum witnessed 15 sessions and workshops during which a group of senior speakers and industry experts presented valuable insights and ideas that would change the traditional rules of agriculture and animal production by adopting science and innovation in improving productivity and overcoming the obstacles and challenges that hinder the achievement of food sustainability. The sessions and workshops covered four main areas including indoor farming, sustainable crops, horticulture, livestock and animal production.
Al Qassimi added that the second day will also see 8 sessions and workshops that cover themes of change innovation, algae and hydroponics industry as well as the announcement of winners of the two categories of the Honey Bee Award out of 120 participating farmers and interested individuals in the honey bee sector from the UAE and the Arab world. It will also see the announcement of the Agricultural Innovations Awards out of 50 revolutionary innovations presented for the first time in the Forum competing for seven awards that will go to the best innovations participating in the six major areas of the exhibition as well as the best start-up award in the field of agriculture.
GFIA is sponsored by the UAE Ministry of Presidential Affairs, and supported by National Feed and Flour Production and Marketing LLC, AgUnity, GODAN – Global Open Data for Agriculture & Nutrition, Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, Madar Farms, Emirates Future and the Food Security Center- Abu Dhabi.