The Coronavirus pandemic has brought around unprecedented times globally. Everybody is affected with the changed lifestyle and the unknown future. With global health authorities indicating a future that may have to be adjusted keeping the virus presence in minds, countries are scrambling to amend the various aspects for future as they grapple with the ongoing economic wobbling. Economic disruption has disturbed the global dynamics leading to a changed ranking of nations with safest places to live in a post pandemic future.
United Arab Emirates has been rated as one of the leading countries to live during and after pandemic, rated according to the pandemic dealing ability and economic stability. UAE is also leading the way in preparing for a future after Covid-19 pandemic by bringing about changes in food chain, technology and scientific developments, thus also increasing the job opportunities.
UAE preparing for the country’s food demand
UAE is focusing on a futuristic approach for preparing for country’s food demand, taking the Covid-19 pandemic backdrop as an opportunity. The idea is to be self-reliant and produce own food and not depend on the imports. Mohammed Al Dhanhani, Director of Agricultural Development and Health Department at Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MoCCE) said, “The pandemic has truly driven home the need for a two-way approach to meeting the demand of our population for food.”
He further explained, “On one hand, we are working to strengthen the international food supply chain. This goal requires productive collaboration with other countries and expanding the number of markets from where we import food. On the other hand, we are stepping up our efforts to support local farmers and explore innovative cultivation methods that enable us to make the most of our resources that are suitable for our desert climate.”
The UAE is reportedly increasing collaborations with farms across 60 countries, working on its food imports and ramping up the agricultural testing capabilities.
Increasing rice cultivation for future supply
Though cultivation of food crops in a desert country may sound like a tough task, but MoCCE has successfully cultivated rice in a farm in Sharjah. An underground drip irrigation system has been installed by the research team at farm to tackle the water scarcity challenge and reduce the amount of water used for rice cultivation. Seawater that has been desalinated is also being used instead of groundwater for the crop cultivation.
The pilot phase of this project gave promising results by yielding 763 kg rice per 1000 square metres of land. MoCCE Director Al Dhanhani said that keeping the positive results in consideration, more farms will be developed in different parts of the country to increase the yield while keeping into account soil treatment.
Coffee and wheat are the next crops to be cultivated, Dhanhani said.
Vertical farms for vegetables
Vertical farms for growing vegetables in climate controlled environment are also being successfully implemented in UAE. Al Dhanhani said, “There are several ways to reduce water consumption in agriculture, including efficient irrigation systems and innovative agricultural techniques, such as vertical or hydroponic farming that use about 90% less water than traditional farming.”
Emirates Airlines is working on launching world’s largest vertical farm in collaboration with US based Crop One. This venture costs around Dh146 million and is planned to span 130,000 square feet. It is expected to yield vegetables equivalent to that of 900 acres of farmland.
The vertical farming is also going to leave much lower carbon footprint, hence enhancing UAE’s pledge of climate control.
Farming the fish
Another innovative work in UAE’s plan of action for post Covid days is ‘aquaponics farming.’ It is the method of farming fish and vegetables together. Hussain Al Mahmoudi, CEO of SRTI (Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation) Park says, “Aquaponics is a form of agriculture that combines raising fish in tanks with soil-less plant culture (hydroponics). The nutrient-rich water from raising fish provides a natural fertilizer for the plants and the plants help to purify the water for the fish.”
The UAE imports approximately 80%-90% of food it consumes. Eyeing the current food supply shortage globally, with or without pandemic, UAE is working relentlessly on procuring its own food and becoming self-reliant, increasing job opportunities in the process.
Touchless Technology at UAE airports
As the airlines resume operations with reopening of tourism, the flyers still experience a panic of virus, mostly the fear of unknown. Shortage of employees due to social distancing norms has led to opting for touchless tech by UAE airport authorities to minimize contact.
Abu Dhabi International Airport is installing touchless elevator technology for about 53 elevators. The objective is to minimize contact cross-infection through the elevator buttons. The technology is developed by a startup called Meta Touch, which is based at the UAE University Science and Innovation Park.
Post Covid Economy
UAE is planning to shape its economy post the Covid-19 pandemic by going big on digital sector. The country’s digital economy is based on 5G, which is the latest telecom infrastructure.
Sultan Al Mansoori, UAE Minster of Economy says, “The next phase will see a long term stimulus plan to speed up recovery, and encourage investments in the digital economy.”
This is the second part of the two-phase plan of economy recovery in UAE. This first phase keeps private sector as target with total incentives of over Dh282.5 billion as of now. These funds are projected to be used as recovery of economy with gradual reopening of country post pandemic.
Digital and telecom sectors have been the priority of UAE government, and this has definitely paid off as pandemic crisis unfolded. The future too abides by this trend.
The second phase of economy is going to see incentive stimulus package being available to economy that would ultimately lead to “accelerated recovery, advanced growth, and transformation of challenges into opportunities.”
5G technology, smart cities and blockchain are going to be the key features in future digitalization for pushing economy recovery.
Other key features included in UAE’s economy recovery plan for post Covid-19 days are:
· Staggered reopening of businesses and economy while adhering to the preventive and precautionary measures.
· Long term stimulus plan to help in economy recovery and growth.
· Diversification of industrial imports.
· Ensuring provision of necessities by encouraging local and national industries.
· Technological developments and advancements will be the key to economy recovery and continuous growth, providing ample job opportunities.