Interview with Muharrem Galip Oner, Chief Digital Officer, Silal
Can we start by asking you to give us some background into what Silal does?
Silal was established in 2020 with a vision to sustainably secure food for the UAE’s present and future generations. Our mission is to diversify sources of food products and stimulate the manufactured and agri-food sectors so that the larger community can have access to safe, nutritious and high-quality food at all times. We believe that the way to accomplish a stronger agriculture sector is through innovative partnerships, supporting our network of growers and service providers, and through the strategic adoption of technology that can spur news ways of thinking and doing when it comes to food sustainability. And this is precisely why we’re so happy to be a supporter of the FoodTech Challenge.
On the topic of the FoodTech Challenge, how is Silal supporting the initiative?
Silal jumped at the opportunity to support the FoodTech Challenge as it aligns with our ongoing work to drive forward the food sustainability agenda and invest in agritech solutions that will further propel the manufactured and agri-food sectors forward.
Along with ADQ, we are proud supporters of the ‘food production’ track of the competition. We’ve been happy to share our industry expertise with early-stage start-ups trying to make their mark on the agri-food tech industry. From indoor and vertical farming to precision farming, it’s been so inspiring to witness and support start-ups and innovators advancing tech solutions that tackle some of the biggest challenges facing the agriculture sector today.
Silal was also part of the FoodTech Challenge judging panel, candidate interviews and mentoring program.
Why is digital innovation so important for the future of food sustainability?
Study after study has demonstrated the critical role that digitalization plays in ensuring food sustainability and the wider sustainability of food systems. Digitalization has provided a myriad of solutions when it comes to logistics, storage and tackling the issue of food waste.
The food processing sector needs to develop products that have a sufficient shelf life and can withstand transportation and storage without compromising on product quality or taste. We can’t achieve this without technology and digital innovation.
To meet the increasing demand for sustainable production while coping with supply chain disruptions, technology is a must-have. From product formulation and process optimization to the need to ensure consistency, safety, quality, and sustainability, advanced measurement techniques fueled by technological innovation play an essential role in propelling the food sector into the future.
Could you give us an example of how Silal is harnessing digital tech to support food sustainability projects?
With the support of its network of 900 growers, service providers, retailers and regulators, Silal’s mission is to future-proof the agriculture sector by harnessing advanced technologies. Technology is critical in our effort to boost local food production, provide access to nutritious food and secure strategic food reserves for our present and future generations.
An example of how we’re using digital technology to propel food sustainability projects is our Digital Agronomy Service. By the end of 2022, we plan to deploy IoT sensors across 100 farms. These sensors will generate data for crop growth models that will in turn assist agriculture engineers in maximizing resource use efficiency, in terms of irrigation and fertilization. This is just one example of how digital technology can be harnessed to empower smart and insight-led decision-making.
How is Silal working with other tech innovators to advance the UAE’s food sector?
Our ongoing agritech partnership with Red Sea Farms is a great example of the importance of tech collaboration in fostering innovation in the food sector. This partnership tackled a common challenge for crop growers in Abu Dhabi, which that is the dependence on fresh water to cool greenhouses. By leveraging advanced technology that was designed and developed in the region by Red Sea Farms, farmers are now able to reduce their water use by up to 95%. This is an extraordinary feat that will ultimately minimize dependence on fresh water and reduce impact on valuable natural resources. It’s also just one of Silal’s many partnerships and collaborations that are currently in operation. We will continue to build relationships with tech innovators in the region and around the world to ensure that smart solutions and technologies find a home here.
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