Across the Middle East, agriculture plays a pivotal role in transforming economies, alleviating poverty and fostering economic growth, but increasingly, the region is becoming more reliant on international markets for its staple food products. In the GCC, more than 90 per cent of its food is imported as arable land water become ever scarcer resources. The issue of food security is one that plagues many countries around the world and many are using technology as a solution to address this challenge.
Agricultural technology (agritech) is beginning to attract investor interest in the Middle East. From 2014 until 2020, there have been 33 investment deals in agritech startups amounting to $250 million in disclosed investments. Agritech leverages technologies like the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics to help farmers elevate the quality of the fresh produce and increase their crop yields. Yet despite the growing interest, agritech in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) is still a very small sector with startups facing a vast trove of challenges.
Against this backdrop, Wamda hosted a panel discussion on 4 November to discuss the current state of the agritech sector.
Below is a summary of the main points tackled by the panelists.
The agritech space has attracted more investments over the past four to five years, yet the investment sentiment overall remains hesitant.
Besides the lack of proper access to funding, the industry itself can be shackled by the rigid regulatory systems and the lack of direct governmental support.
The importance of cost
Consumer response to these agritech-grown produce has been positive, but to really push the growth of the sector it will come down to the pricing of produce.