Sea and desert agriculture is key for global food security challenges

New Israeli government initiatives will partner with others in the region to pioneer innovative solutions to the challenge of feeding a growing global population

The sea makes up about 70% of the earth’s surface. Most of it has not yet been explored, yet even still, overfishing causes enormous damage to this habitat by disrupting the ecological ecosystem. Meanwhile, the world’s population is expected to grow from 8 to 10 billion by the year 2050. In addition, we are experiencing dramatic processes such as climate changes, greenhouse gas emissions, global warming, rising ocean levels, polluting industries, accelerated urban construction and excessive exploitation of natural and marine resources. All these present significant challenges for humanity in the fields of food security and agriculture.

In order to help solve the challenge of food instability and to allow the ocean to recover, we must employ innovative and sustainable aquaculture – protecting the planet and serving humanity.

Aquaculture provides an answer to the growing need for high-quality food (protein) for the world’s growing population, which is currently based on animals. New technologies and discoveries in aquaculture, offer the opportunity to supply raw materials for the medical and agriculture fields from algae, corals, seafood, and fish. One important aspect to keep in mind is that aquaculture, unlike regular agriculture, does not use drinking water quality, does not pollute groundwater with fertilizers and pesticides, and does not consume land. All these make it a highly sustainable resource.

A significant part of the world’s future food sources could be found in the sea. It is an essential global need to scale the process and find ways to domesticate more fish species in a clean and productive process.

In addition, in order to practice agriculture under climate change in an arid and semi-arid climate, we must develop technologies and know-how in order to continue to produce high yields. This is a challenge, especially in the Middle East and with the rise of the population of the region.

These new major issues will be the central focus of a first-of-its-kind conference to be held in Israel next month. The location could not be more apt. It will be held at the southernmost city, Eilat, which is located at the foot of the Negev Desert, on the Gulf of Aqaba, bordering Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other nations further down the Gulf. At this conference, speakers from across the region will gather. Arabs, Israelis, Jews, Muslims, Christians; from Morocco, Bahrain, from the UAE and more. Speakers and participants from the US, Canada, Europe, Singapore and more, will come together to this location, where the desert meets the sea, and share knowledge on finding solutions to bring food from the sea and the desert.

In a region, which has known – and sadly still does – much turmoil and turbulence, this moment in a desert oasis or collaboration and partnership, sends a message of intent. Under the palm trees of the Abraham Accords, which offers opportunity for collaboration, the conference sends a message of partnership. We all understand that in order to bring new innovative solutions for the rising population, we must work together and develop new technologies for the benefit of all of us. We are all in this together, and humanity must unite to find the solutions we sorely need.

The Israeli Government is proud to lead the initiative of investing in this field, but we know there is much more to be done. We are working to establish an industrial park for aquaculture close systems and new innovative growing methods and for pilots in order to test new technologies. We are investing in education, in order to build the next generation of researchers and students – special grants will be given, research institutes will be strengthened. In addition, we are investing in creating a local ecosystem that will allow entrepreneurs, researchers, growers, industry and government to share knowledge and generate new ideas.

This initiative has national, regional and international implications for securing future food sources.

I believe that the unique knowledge and innovation that will be derived from these initiatives and events, will be essential to the region and the world, in dealing with some of the biggest challenges humanity has in the foreseeing future.

About the Author
*Michal Levy, Ph.D. is Chief Scientist & Senior Deputy Director General, Agricultural Innovation at Israel's Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development