Three UAE start-ups make it to final round of $2 million FoodTech Challenge
Three UAE start-ups focused on solving hunger and food waste problems have made it to the final round of FoodTech Challenge.
Food ATM, a company that helps to provide food to people on lower incomes, Revoltech, which uses special freezing technology to retain the freshness and taste of frozen food, and Circa Biotech, a company that upcycles food waste into protein-rich animal feed, are among the 12 finalists.
More than 650 contestants from 79 countries signed up to participate.
Four winners will be announced in early 2023, sharing the $2 million prize money. Other finalists are from Israel, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, the UK and the US.
The annual challenge was launched in September 2019 by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, the UAE Food and Water Security Office and Tamkeen, an Abu Dhabi company supporting the UAE's development of a knowledge-based economy.
Dh3 meal with Food ATM card
With Food ATM, founder Ayesha Khan provides a healthy meal to the less privileged for only Dh3.
Ms Khan, 46, launched the social initiative in March 2019 and has three such facilities — two in Ajman and one in Sharjah, with a fourth coming up in Ras Al Khaimah.
The workers receive a food voucher that resembles an ATM card which can be used to buy the heavily subsidised meal.
Ms Khan said she sold her property in India to launch the project and tries to source food products nearing expiry dates to keep the prices low. She said she manages to break even as she gets bulk orders from companies that buy these cards.
“All these workers send most of their money back home to support their families. So, I decided to make a smartcard which does not have money but offers them three daily meals a day,” she told The National.
"We prepare 50,000 meals every day, which includes packets of breakfast, lunch and dinner.
"More people bought our food packets during the pandemic as several companies did not have work and they opted for our low-cost meals for their workers."
Ms Khan said cooking was a stress buster for her.
“I hope workers can save the money they would otherwise spend on food and this may be used for other things, such as sending their children to school," she said.
Ms Khan now runs her own business and hopes to expand if she wins the prize. Currently, the business is in pre-seed stage