LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Economy and Planning has launched an innovation challenge focusing on global food security issues.
The Food Ecosystems and Arid Climates Challenge has been organized in partnership with UpLink, the World Economic Forum’s innovation platform, which aims to connect entrepreneurs with investors and other collaborators.
Organizers said the challenge invites industry players to tackle problems through collaboration and cooperation, with the aim of crowdsourcing transformative solutions designed to enhance food security in countries affected by low rainfall, drought and desertification.
“Our world faces a wide range of major socioeconomic challenges and food security is at the top of the list,” said Faisal F. Alibrahim, the Saudi minister of economy and planning.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is fully committed to being a major innovation accelerator, and dedicating resources to empower and support entrepreneurs who are determined to tackle the challenge of food security, in this case in regions with arid climates.”
The initiative was unveiled on Thursday during the WEF’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, with a call for food industry entrepreneurs, start-ups, social ventures, and small and medium-sized enterprises to submit their proposals.
The winners of the challenge will receive 100,000 Swiss francs ($109,000) to invest in scaling up and implementing their ventures in arid regions, and also benefit from increased visibility and access to networking opportunities.
According to UN’s World Food Program, 828 million people worldwide face hunger, 2.3 billion are considered food insecure, and 3.1 billion cannot afford a healthy diet. It is estimated that by 2030, water scarcity and droughts will have displaced 700 million people.
The collaboration between the Saudi ministry and UpLink aims to enhance food security and improve the supply of healthy and nutritious foods in regions that need them most, organizers said, to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030.
It is the first of two challenges related to food systems, the second of which, focusing on climate-smart agriculture, will be launched later this year.