TIQ has facilitated a major agreement between Queensland’s James Cook University (JCU) and a Middle East marine research centre, which could result in new seafood solutions to the region’s food-security challenges.

Under the agreement, JCU will provide expert assistance to the Sheikh Khalifa Marine Research Centre to help establish a new Marine Innovation Park in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Queensland Trade and Investment Commissioner for the Middle East Donna Massie said food security would be a research priority for the new centre.

‘The UAE is heavily reliant on imported food due to low rainfall and lack of arable land,’ she said.

‘The Marine Innovation Park will focus on marine science, biotechnology and aquaculture, with the goal of developing smarter marine-based food solutions.

‘This is strongly aligned with the UAE’s National Food Security strategy, which aims to take the country from its current position of thirty-first most food-secure country in the world to being in the top 10 by 2021.

‘This is a highly prestigious partnership, which showcases Queensland’s capability in a globally significant area and the strong relationship between the United Arab Emirates and Queensland.’

Ms Massie introduced JCU representatives to the UAE Ministry of Food Security and advised JCU on a range of issues leading up to the signing of the agreement.

The Marine Innovation Park is being established as part of a move by the UAE Government to promote research and development in bio-science technology and marine science.

Speaking after the signing, the UAE Minister of State for Food Security, Her Excellency Mariam Al Mehairi, said JCU was chosen for its expertise in advancing the ‘Blue Economy’ – an emerging economic concept that encourages better stewardship of the world’s oceans.

‘This memorandum of intent represents a significant development in the UAE’s quest to become a world leader in aquaculture,’ she said.

‘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.’

JCU will spend 8 months working with centre staff to develop a strategic plan for the new Marine Innovation Park, drawing on the expertise of JCU scientists in areas such as aquaculture, macroalgae, sensor and blockchain technology, artificial intelligence, and environmental assessment and management.

The memorandum of intent was signed on 11 July in Abu Dhabi by the Minister of State for Food Security, Her Excellency Mariam Al Mehairi, and JCU Vice Chancellor Professor Sandra Harding.

The new Marine Innovation Park will be based in Umm Al Quwain.

Agribusiness is identified as one of Queensland’s export strengths in the Queensland Trade and Investment Strategy 2017–2022.

Also supporting food security in the UAE is innovative Queensland company RADAQUA, which manages a large aquaculture project in the UAE.