Priva was well-represented during Food, Agriculture & Livelihoods Week at Expo 2020 Dubai, one of the key theme weeks during the six-month long World Expo in the United Arab Emirates.
With a busy line-up of events and speaking engagements, this was the perfect opportunity to further strengthen our positioning in the Middle East as one of Priva’s key growth markets, following the opening of our office in Dubai last year.
The week started off with the Expo 2020 Programme for People and Planet on Sunday, where our CEO Meiny Prins was one of the distinguished guests at the World Majlis on ‘The Value of Food: Reducing Food Waste and Loss for a Healthier Planet’, organized by the Expo organisation and New Zealand. The event took place in the format of a traditional ‘Majlis’ - meaning a special council and gathering in Arabic. The open discussion focused on the global challenge of food waste and looked at questions such as the true value of food loss and waste, solutions to reduce waste throughout the food cycle from production to consumption, and the transformation of waste into useful resources.The event can be watched back here.
That same afternoon Meiny and Giovanni Angiolini, our General Manager for the Middle East, attended the opening and dinner reception of Oman-Netherlands Day at the Dutch Pavilion and had the opportunity to briefly meet Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Oman, Stella Kloth.
The following day, Meiny delivered a very inspirational TEDx Talk at the Food, Agriculture & Livelihoods Business Forum on the potential of food producing cities and what metropoles around the globe can learn from the Netherlands as the first food producing city.
“We are the change together,” she said, emphasizing the critical need to change the food production system, “including energy sources, water use, labor and how we subsidize. At Priva our ambition is to play a role in the circular economies based on greentech and smart buildings for the cities of the future.”
“It’s a vision that starts with an ambition and a local government that can facilitate. I see this in the UAE, and they will be an example to other countries that face a similar climate. There are many ways in which we can help. It’s not just about tech, but about the people of a city. We need to talk to entrepreneurs, inspire the next generation to work in agribusiness, and inform consumers so they can make good choices,” Meiny stated.
Her powerful address at Expo 2020 was followed by a wonderful visit to New York University in Abu Dhabi as part of our commitment to being a a knowledge partner to the sector in the region. Working with universities, research centers and other educational institutions is at the core of what we do at Priva, it’s in our DNA.
Meiny was invited to take part in the VC Roundtable with Vice Chancellor Mariet Westerman, who also hails from The Netherlands. The highly engaging conversation focused on climate solution-seeking through technology and entrepreneurship, the future of sustainability initiatives, and sustainability innovation in the region and globally. Meiny also shared her journey as an entrepreneur and her vision for the Sustainable Urban Delta foundation with the students and gave insights into working in a family business. The roundtable concluded with a Q&A session which saw some incredibly pertinent questions from the students.
Globally, the average age of a farmer today is 60 years and there is very little succession in place in the traditional farms, especially in kettle farming. To safeguard the future of farming it is vital to nurture the next generation of growers. In attracting young professionals, we need to rethink what it means to be a farmer. Meiny also addressed this topic in her conversation with the Vice Chancellor and students at NYU Abu Dhabi.
“To attract the young generation to take up a career in agriculture again something has to change, we need to reinvent the profession,” Meiny said. “One way to do this is through the technology that’s available. We need to inspire them and show them that this is a really cool world to be part of. Agritech and Greentech provide many new job opportunities to drive our sector forward, to invent and improve, there’s so much to it.”
Tuesday was Horticulture Day at the Netherlands Pavilion, organized by Dutch Greenhouse Delta, which brought together holistic solutions from the Netherlands, as one of the highest-ranking food-producing countries in the world. Meiny was delighted to delivera keynote speech as Expo Champion for the Food sector in which she focused on the significance and urgency of having a plan and taking action, in the quest for a sustainable and food-secure future: “There are so many ways in which we can support entrepreneurs and consumers, and we need to do this now as there isn’t much time left.”
“Today, 7,000 billion USD is spent to keep a food production system alive that's destroying our planet. As long as making profit and growing economies is more important than anything else, it will be difficult to make a change. We shouldn’t invest in a broken system but build one next to it, one that is driven by entrepreneurs and citizens,” Meiny stated.
“We need to bring green belts closer to the cities and develop the brown fields to create more space for food production in metropoles. This will also help in attracting the next generation of growers by bringing farms closer to the urban areas where they study, have their friends and want to live."
Later that day, Priva’s Don Kester and Giovanni Angiolini hosted a joint workshop with partners Artechno and Signify Middle East on Vertical farming and how indoor farming makes production of safe food possible all year round.
On Tuesday evening the Priva team split up to attend the multiple events we were invited to. Meiny and Giovanni attended the ALEC/Agritechture Consulting event organized by Henry Gordon-Smith on ‘Building an AgTech Future for the GCC’, while Don and Bas van Loenen attended the Dutch Greenhouse Delta dinner reception. Later that evening the team joined the Food, Agriculture & Livelihoods Week Networking Event organized by Expo 2020.
Wednesday saw the start of the inaugural ‘Food For Future Summit’ at the Dubai Exhibition Centre at Expo 2020 where Priva was both an exhibitor and speaker. With a focus on innovation in horticulture and sustainable farming to help achieve food security goals, the team had a very busy two days meeting with partners, clients, government officials and business relations from the region at the Priva stand. We were delighted to have the opportunity to welcome Her Excellency Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri, UAE Minister for Climate Change and Environment, for a short introduction at the Priva stand.
The Summit also featured The Leader’s Symposium where Meiny participated in a panel discussion on '24/7/365 food production - How everyone can be a farmer by bringing the green revolution and indoor farms into urban living spaces', chaired by Henry Gordon-Smith from Agritecture and with fellow panelists Dr. Farshad Shishehchian from Blue Aqua International and Samer Abdel Jaber from the World Food Programme in Palestine.
Priva's Market Developer Indoor Growing, Fred Ruijgt also took the stage at the Food for Future Summit and hosted a joint workshop on Indoor Farming with Olav Scholte from Signify Middle East and Damion Schwarzkachel from Certhon, which saw a lot of interest.
The week concluded with our second successful Priva Partner event at the Netherlands Pavilion at Expo 2020. The evening was attended by industry professionals, partners and academia from the region and internationally, and featured an exciting programme focused on the importance of knowledge-sharing in Agri- and Horticulture towards a sustainable and innovative future of farming.
Guests were welcomed by Giovanni who highlighted Priva’s commitment to being a global knowledge partner locally on the ground and to help achieve the region’s indoor growing and horticulture goals. His words of welcome were followed by an inspritational keynote address from Meiny and a presentation from Dr. Jan Westra who discussed Priva’s role in aligning with regional knowledge institutes.
Speaking on behalf of the academic sector, Mariet Westermann, Vice Chancellor at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYU) discussed the potential role of knowledge institutes, such as NYU Abu Dhabi, in the UAE’s National food security strategy.
The event concluded with a highly engaging panel discussion focused on knowledge-sharing in the UAE moderated by Giovanni. Panelists included Hassan Halawy, CEO of Elite Agro Projects LLC; Olav Scholtefrom Signify Middle East; Mariëtt Westermann from NYU Abu Dhabi, and Jan from Priva.
The team is still buzzing from the exciting and inspiring week we have had in the UAE, with lots of new stakeholders to connect the dots and make the Middle East a more sustainable and innovative food security hub.