Oman authorities put food security and sustainability centre stage with ‘transformative’ investments21 Jul 2022
New technologies and initiatives to promote sustainable food systems, healthy diets and improved food and nutrition security have attracted the backing of authorities in the Gulf country Oman.
In a series of announcements in recent weeks, the Oman Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Water Resources (MAFWR); Zubair Enterprises Development Centre (Zubair EDC); and Oman Investment Authority (OIA) have announced new partnerships and initiatives aimed at driving food security and sustainable product in the Sultanate.
FAO partnership to drive sustainable nutrition goals
In an announcement this week, the MAFWR and Zubair EDC said it will work on a new initiative with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) that aims to link local production and the supply of safe and nutritious foods with multiple interventions, and to increase demand of healthier foods by influencing consumer behaviour.
The project aligns with the National Nutrition Strategy of Oman 2014-2050 and Oman’s Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development Strategy (SARDS) 2040. Under these strategies, emphasis is given to the importance of an adequate intake of fruits and vegetables, while decreasing the intake of energy-dense foods, as a main determinant of health as well as food security and nutrition.
Investment into plant-based protein technologies
The Oman Investment Authority (OIA) and US company MycoTechnology have also established a joint venture (JV) that will use locally-grown dates to produce high-quality mushroom-based protein.
Oman is one of the world's top 10 producers of dates, growing about 400 thousand tonnes per year. However, more than half goes to waste or animal feed. The new joint venture is expected to upcycle a significant portion of these excess dates, using the natural sugar present in the fruit as a source of carbon to fuel the production of mushroom-based protein.
MycoTechnology said the JV represents a step towards the next generation of innovation, driven by its proprietary fermentation platform which harnesses mushroom mycelia to create ingredients.
Building a food oasis in the desert
The two parties will collaborate to build a state-of-the-art production facility in Oman, which aims to then scale up and commercialize the date-grown mushrooms as a novel source of nutritious, sustainable protein.
The strategic partnership between OIA and MycoTechnology is in line with Oman Vision 2040, which aims to attract modern technologies to the country.
"MycoTechnology is excited to be co-operating with Oman Investment Authority to build this highly innovative food oasis in the desert,” commented MycoTechnology CEO Alan Hahn. “It represents a breakthrough in the quest to bring food security to Oman and the wider region.”
“This initiative will be transformative – and not just for the Middle East. We are foraging for the future, unlocking the ancient power of culinary mushrooms to feed the world's growing population with a solution that's been beneath our feet all along,” he said.
Construction of the new facility is due to start in the first half of 2023 on a 10-hectare site, with commercial production scheduled to begin by the second quarter of 2025. Up to 16,000 tonnes of dates will be processed each year.
Ibrahim Al Eisri, director of private equity at OIA, said the OIA international investment strategy is focused on localising advanced technologies.
“Our partnership with Mycotechnology will deliver substantial local benefits as we pioneer the proteins of tomorrow,” he said. “It will support our mission to enhance food security, diversify the Omani economy, and create well-paying jobs in an eco-friendly new sector.”
“This joint venture will be the foundation that enables Oman to foster a new generation of talent in the sphere of food technology, here and further afield."