The UAE has outlined its ambition to become a world-leader in the sustainable food production sphere of aquaculture with the signing of a Memorandum of Intent, MoI, between the Minister of State for Food Security, Mariam Almheiri, and James Cook University, JCU, Australia.
A Ministry statement said that the agreement, signed yesterday, relates to the Marine Innovation Park, MIP, at the Sheikh Khalifa Marine Research Centre in Abu Dhabi and aims to harness JCU’s knowledge and experience in biotechnology, e-technology and aquaculture – the farming of fish, shellfish and aquatic plants under controlled conditions and with minimal resources.
“This Memorandum of Intent represents a significant development in the UAE’s quest to become a world leader in aquaculture and in scaling up the commercial and sustainable production of fish and aquatic plants using minimal quantities of water. Water husbandry has a special significance for us as a country because of our low annual rainfall and our shrinking levels of groundwater – aquaculture is a sustainable method of food production that represents one of the best uses of this precious resource. We are delighted to have signed an agreement with JCU, an international leader in the Blue Economy, to develop our capacities in this vital area,” the Minister said.
Under the terms of the MoI, JCU will spend eight months working with the UAE to develop a strategic plan for the Marine Innovation Park. The university will then work closely with industry, government and education stakeholders in the UAE to identify opportunities and development timelines for the MIP.
The decision to select JCU as the partner of choice to develop the capacity of MIP, the Ministry statement said, was based upon the institution’s research and development, R&D, expertise in advancing the ‘Blue Economy’ – an emerging economic concept that promotes better stewardship of the world’s oceans. Internationally renowned for its marine science research and teaching programmes which have placed it in the top two percent of institutions operating in the field, JCU has more than 50 world-leading staff and graduate research students across designated aquaculture research centres.
JCU has been consistently ranked as one of the world’s foremost institutions for environmental management R&D and has particular strengths in studying tropical coastal ecosystems. The university has also established a global reputation for its R&D in macroalgae – or seaweed – with its 14-year focus on the production and application of these aquatic plants responsible for the development of a core knowledge base that has led to a productive and profitable freshwater and marine macroalgae aquaculture sector.
JCU Vice Chancellor Professor Sandra Harding said that JCU was delighted to support the UAE in its ambition to become a world leader in aquaculture and e-technology.
“This is the first phase of what’s expected to be a strong and mutually beneficial partnership between JCU and the United Arab Emirates. JCU has a global reputation for excellence in marine science, fisheries and aquaculture, and this partnership with the UAE Government acknowledges the university’s pre-eminence as world leaders in this area,” Professor Harding said.
“The project will showcase northern Queensland’s expertise and innovation in marine science. Our experts will be travelling to the UAE to help guide the development of the Marine Innovation Park, which will deliver significant financial benefits for JCU going forward,” she added.
The Trade and Investment Queensland, TIQ, Trade Commissioner for the Middle East, Donna Massie, described the agreement as “a highly prestigious partnership, which showcases Queensland’s capability and the strong relationship between the United Arab Emirates and Queensland.”
The signing of the MoI represents the first of three outlined stages for the Office of Food Security’s relationship with JCU. The second stage relates to operationalising MIP in line with strategic and technical planning processes that have been developed by JCU, and the third stage focuses on implementing measures to ensure its long-term sustainability via collaborations and partnerships.
The MoI will see the Office of Food Security working with JCU to position MIP as a regional and world leader in marine innovation, develop the intellectual capital of the UAE and deliver sustainable economic prosperity through Blue Economy initiatives. Among the proposed activities between JCU and MIP to achieve these ends are staff exchanges, joint R&D programmes, a catalogue of research training activities, bi-lateral pursuit of philanthropic funding and the implementation of a governance model for MIP.
Part of the Sheikh Khalifa Marine Research Centre, MIP was established as an R&D centre that focuses on marine science, biotechnology and aquaculture. Aligned with the UAE’s National Food Security strategy that aims to take the country from its current position of 31st most food secure country in the world to being in the top 10 by 2021, the facility looks at maximising food yields and creating food production symbiosis, with the waste from aquatic animals that are used for food fertilising plants that can be used to produce biofuel, among other things.