Abu Dhabi provides $272m agtech incentives to create ‘vibrant ecosystem’

Abu Dhabi Investment Office will provide the funding via a mix of cash and non-cash incentives over the next three years.

The Abu Dhabi Investment Office is aiming to establish a “global centre for desert environment agriculture innovation” in the emirate through a new package of incentives for agtech companies worth more than $270 million.

The initiative is part of the Abu Dhabi government’s accelerator programme, Ghadan 21, and will see both cash and non-cash incentives offered to agtech companies that establish a presence in the emirate.

Elham Al Qasimm, acting CEO of the ADIO, told Agri Investor that ADIO will issue up to AED1 billion ($272 million; €239 million) to help agtech specialists set up in the region.

“We will award highly competitive and comprehensive cash and non-cash incentive packages for innovative companies within the agtech sector,” she said.

“This includes incentives that have the potential of reaching up to 75 percent rebate on R&D expenses, subject to eligibility and commercialization conditions. Non-cash incentives may [also] be made available, including for example land incentives.”

Any registered company from anywhere in the world is eligible to apply, Al Qasimm said, as long as it has existing R&D capabilities and is generating revenues, and is active in one of three subsectors: algae-based biofuels, indoor farming, or precision agriculture and ag-robotics.

The physical presence required in Abu Dhabi will include an “appropriate number of full-time engineers or scientists,” he said, with companies already based in the emirate also eligible to apply.

The Ghadan 21 programme aims to accelerate Abu Dhabi’s economy over the next three years. Beyond 2021, Al Qasimm said she was “confident” that the agtech sector in Abu Dhabi would have “flourished into a vibrant ecosystem.”

“Having said that, ADIO’s mandate is to regularly evaluate the investment environment created for this and other sectors in Abu Dhabi to ensure it remains competitive and conducive to growth,” she said.

“We will continue to work with investors to find the best solutions as the agtech companies’ businesses naturally evolve over time.”

She added that ADIO was focusing on agtech investment now because the sector “will need capital to scale over the coming years to solve the pertinent issues facing growing populations.”

Abu Dhabi and investors there have been investing in farmland and farm technology for some time, including in controlled-climate agriculture, aquaculture and agriculture in the developing world.