PepsiCo Middle East CEO Aamer Sheikh Sounds Off On The Six Finalists Of The 2023 Greenhouse Accelerator Program: MENA Sustainability Edition As part of its commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040 and net water positive by 2030, PepsiCo Middle East's Greenhouse Accelerator Program aims to drive tangible change at scale.

By Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

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PepsiCo Middle East
Aamer Sheikh, CEO, PepsiCo Middle East

If I were to ask you what are the first three words that come to mind when I mention PepsiCo, it is highly unlikely that "agriculture" would be an immediate choice. But the 125-year-old global food and beverage company -which was born in the United States in 1898, and today has a formidable presence across the globe- is way more acquainted with the agriculture sector than you may be led to think.

"At PepsiCo, we're often thought of as just a soft drinks company- however, we see ourselves as an agricultural company at our core," Aamer Sheikh, CEO of PepsiCo Middle East, says. "Already, we have sourced crops across 60 countries, and supported over 100,000 agricultural jobs worldwide. This scale and experience has allowed us to understand that sustainable agriculture is at the heart of meeting the increasing demand for food as the global population grows, while preserving our natural resources. Sustainable agriculture takes on special meaning in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) with several parts of the region grappling with scarce arable land and limited water supply. This raises concerns around food security and creates uncertainty in a region that thrives on long-term planning and predictability."

Sheikh's words make it clear why the second edition of PepsiCo's Greenhouse Accelerator Program: MENA Sustainability Edition -a global mentor-led initiative by the company to help entrepreneurs in the sustainability space grow through collaboration and knowledge sharing- is primarily focused on sustainable agriculture. In fact, this year's edition continues PepsiCo's initial partnership with the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) as well as Food Tech Valley, an initiative launched by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, which aims to foster innovation in food production.

"For our part, we are holding ourselves to ambitious goals on this front, and we believe that innovation is the key to making progress within sustainable agriculture," Sheikh adds. "Startups have a lot to offer– their agility and innovation mindset can drive long-term positive impact with access to the right resources, capital, and network. That's why we've chosen to spotlight sustainable agriculture through this year's cohort. We have thus identified six startups from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Tunisia with disruptive agricultural solutions to address common challenges, such as water stress, limited arable land, and food security."

Having gone through a rigorous multistage selection process, the six companies chosen to be a part of this program were selected from over 180 applications from 18 countries based on five key criteria: alignment with PepsiCo's sustainability strategy, i.e. pep+ (PepsiCo Positive), strategic synergy with PepsiCo, scalability, relevance to the MENA, and breakthrough potential. "Each of the shortlisted companies bring a unique level of expertise and innovative solutions to the table, from all aspects of the agriculture value chain, from water preservation, to soil cultivation," Sheikh notes. "With these pioneering solutions, we aim to help strengthen the resilience of our food system. The program is also intricately tied to our own goals. At PepsiCo, we have committed to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040 and become net water positive by 2030. Part of this is fostering innovation through the Greenhouse Accelerator Program to drive tangible change at scale. The program also goes beyond funding support. One of the main tenets of the program is the one-on-one mentorship that each of the startups receive, as well as access to a wide network."

Having already received an initial grant of US$20,000 to support their respective businesses, the six companies in this year's Greenhouse Accelerator Program: MENA Sustainability Edition are now all set to benefit further from the mentorship they will be provided by regional industry professionals, as well as PepsiCo and Food Tech Valley experts. At the end of the six-month program, one winning startup will be granted a funding of $100,000 to scale and grow.

Here, in no particular order, are the six startups vying for this prize:

1. NoorNation

2. Dooda Solutions

3. YY Regen

4. SmartWTI

5. RoboCare

6. Smart Green

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

Features Writer, Entrepreneur Middle East

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed is the Features Writer at Entrepreneur Middle East.

She is an MBA (Finance) graduate with past experience in the corporate sector, and was also co-founder of CyberSWIFTT- an anti-cyberbullying campaign that ran from 2017-2018 as part of the e7: Daughters of the Emirates program.

Ahmed is keen on pursuing and writing stories on people-centric leadership, female-owned startups, and entrepreneurs who've beaten significant odds to realize their goals.

A bibliophile, chai addict, and photography enthusiast, she can be often found (animatedly) talking about Kdramas, BTS, cricket, novels, and comic book films.

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