Dubai, UAE: A UAE based company offering a unique solution to water scarcity was announced as winner of the 2022 Thought For Food (TFF) MENA Agri-Food-Tech Challenge at the landmark Food for Future Summit, the influential two-day summit featuring world leaders, food and agricultural innovators from international organisations including the World Bank, held at the Dubai Exhibition Centre, Expo 2020 Dubai.

The TFF 2022 MENA Agri-Food-Tech Challenge, organised by the TFF Foundation in partnership with the UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE), and Food for Future Summit, was open to all entrepreneurs from the MENA region who presented a solution to create a healthier, more sustainable and resilient food system. The challenge welcomed applications from all stages, from idea and prototype, to post seed funding-stage.

UAE-based Manhat was awarded the US$8,000 grand prize ahead of over 170 entries from the UAE, Turkey, Bahrain, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt, thanks to its patented technology which delivers sustainable water and floating farm solutions, utilising natural water cycles with zero electricity, zero CO2 emissions and zero brine.

Manhat’s offering will benefit coastline cities where the looming threat of rising sea levels due to climate change is especially high. Vishnu Pillai, Co-Founder, Manhat, said: “Our project is unique as we desalinate the water where the floating farms are deployed without any carbon footprint and brine rejection. Our technology allows us to generate sustainable water solutions and floating farm solutions.

“The idea stemmed from passion to solve the region-wide problem of lack of availability of fresh water for irrigation. Over 70% of the evaporated water in the atmosphere is used for agriculture and the majority of the water does not condense to provide fresh water irrigation for farms. Our technology traps evaporated water and condenses it, providing a sustainable alternative to irrigate farms.

“As a start-up, winning a competition at this level definitely provides us with an incentive to keep moving forward and we are grateful for the recognition that Thought For Food and the Food For Future Summit have provided us with,” added Pillai.

An international collective of individuals and organisations called Farms Not Arms, which came together on a volunteer basis to design a long-term solution to food security, climate change, and the refugee crisis in Lebanon, won the runner-up prize of US$4,000. Through a process of community-centred design and systems thinking, Farms Not Arms developed an agricultural model that combines regenerative agriculture with low-tech hydroponics to produce three times more food in any given space, while sequestering carbon to reverse climate change.

Jehane Akiki, Managing Director and Co-founder of Farms Not Arms, said: “We built the women-led farm Turba in Zahle in Lebanon and through this solution it has produced enough food to sell to customers and donate to the community in our first year. This is the first step as we build towards our goal of turning the farm into an educational community hub to facilitate knowledge and community exchange.

“Our goal is to regionalise the global problem and begin from there. Having been in the design stage for several years, we launched Farms Not Arms in April 2021 and this recognition is highly motivational for us,” added Akiki.

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