11 January 2022

Every 10 years, 192 countries present their technological and cultural innovations to each other during the World Expo. This time, they are doing so in sunny Dubai. What can we learn from the innovations that countries present at EXPO 2020 in Dubai? And will these innovations and developments affect the garden retail industry?  

There is only one way to find out, so we visited EXPO 2020 ourselves. We have highlighted 8 pavilions that stood out to us (but we have to admit, we did not visit all 100+ of them

1. Alif: the virtual and the physical world meet each other

The Alif pavilion by the Emirates connects the virtual and the real world. After a tour through 2000 years of progress - from travelling by foot to space travel - it is shown how IT makes the world better but also more complex and challenging. Security and privacy are essential and must be safeguarded in this rapidly changing world. After all, more data does not by definition mean improvement!

The pavilion also shows future travel concepts such as hoverboards, jet packs, drones and solar-powered engines.

Estonia: the online society

2. Estonia: the online society

Estonia has always been a progressive country. The internet is the basis for everyday life for most citizens: learning about, working with, paying and contacting the government. The country is far ahead of the Netherlands or Belgium in this respect. In their modest pavilion, there is a lot to see & read about the application of smart internet solutions in Estonia's digital-first society. 

At Expo 2020, Estonia wants to provide a blueprint for other countries to implement their innovative applications. A nice detail is a robot that makes & mixes drinks for guests, especially during times when it's hard to find good employees.

Singapore: the green city

3. Singapore: the green city

During Expo 2020, Singapore stays away from technology and focuses entirely on its mission to become the greenest city in the world (City in a Garden). The outside of the pavilion makes this clear at first sight, as it is completely overgrown with plants. 

In the pavilion itself, it is explained how Singapore wants to realise its vision. Green is the starting point of urban renewal and not the final piece after construction. Singapore's leading role in this certainly leads to more attention for a greener outdoor space, which is good for the garden sector.

The Netherlands: innovation in horticulture

4. The Netherlands: innovation in horticulture

Of course, we also visited our "own" pavilion, dedicated to horticulture. In the pavilion, innovations have been applied to grow vegetables in this extremely dry environment. Water is extracted from the outside air and solar energy is used to grow the crops inside. In the picture above, you can see the crops growing vertically. On the roof, you can see the installation that generates water. 

The building is entirely recyclable and will be gone two months after the Expo ends. All that will be left is gravel and sand. The Dutch pavilion is on the list of most popular pavilions, so the message is spread far.

South Korea: Augmented Reality

5. South Korea: Augmented Reality

The main theme of the South Korean pavilion is Augmented Reality. During the pavilion tour, AR is widely used to add an extra dimension. This way, you can see innovations that are being developed in South Korea. The use of AR is used by more countries to bring the online & real world together.

The K-Pop performance afterwards was a nice extra by the way!

6. United Kingdom: Artificial Intelligence

The UK pavilion is simple but original and inspired by Stephen Hawkings. Inside, visitors can enter one word, after which a poem is made outside the pavilion. This poem is then displayed on the building facade.

The word "gardencentre" was unfortunately too long, but this pavilion did show the power of Artificial Intelligence. After Expo 2020, they want to publish the longest poem in the world.

Terra: the sustainability pavilion

7. Terra: the sustainability pavilion

Perhaps the most impressive building at Expo 2020 is Terra: a pavilion entirely dedicated to sustainability. The roof is a large solar panel, and inside Terra, visitors are taken on a journey to experience human's impact on the earth. 

Inside, the visitors have to make their own choices: do you want a new pair of jeans that costs 12,000 litres of water, or will you postpone your purchase? By showing you the actual costs clearly, the impact of our daily choices become more visible.

In the pavilion, you also literally walk underground and it is explained how forests are interwoven under the surface. Because you can actually see the roots, you get a good picture of this - very original and instructive.


8. Talabat

The Arabic food delivery service has set up a concept store at the expo. The robot that makes ice cream is an excellent example of the increasing applicability of robotics in everyday settings. Where robots are often conceptual, this one simply makes delicious ice cream for you, without humans getting involved.

Talabat also showed the future of restaurants in its concept store. Besides ordering via touch screens and QR codes, the layout of the kitchen is adapted to the world of today. Orders for couriers are placed on a treadmill where the courier can pick them up. A smart solution in which they reverse the priorities: a restaurant kitchen is first and foremost there for the take-away, the second priority is guests who come to eat. 

Moreover, food can be ordered throughout the Expo area and delivered by Talabat’s small delivery robot

Talabat robot

But what can we learn from Expo 2022?

These 8 pavilions show innovations and developments in their own way. But what can you learn from them, and how can you or we use this in your business?  

  • The first thing that strikes us is that many countries have big dreams. Thinking big often leads to acting big. This year, it is precisely 50 years ago that the United Arab Emirates was founded. It is not a perfect country, but if you see pictures of Dubai in 1961 and 2021, you will immediately understand that they are thinking big. How big do you dare to think?
  • Secondly, sustainability is one of the main themes of Expo 2020 in Dubai. All the countries are paying attention to it, sometimes with a twist, and sometimes a pavilion is wholly focussed on sustainability. Clearly, this trend is still developing and will accelerate in the coming years. Of course, there are plenty of opportunities here for garden centres, but speeding them up can do no harm. What can you do in this area to lead the industry?
  • Last but not least, there is more than Europe. Many innovations come from countries from which you don't necessarily expect them. All countries are welcome at the Expo. For example, Saudi Arabia has developed hanging gardens around the pavilion. Very nice and refreshing during the hot days in Dubai. So don't be blinded by Europe or the US - there's more to explore!

If you expect concrete answers, the Expo is not the best place to go: many solutions and developments are explained in conceptual terms and still need to be developed further. However, we were inspired enough to get an idea of the world of tomorrow and the role we will play in it. 

Just as the visitors of the first World's Fairs who did not know whether the telephone or fax was useful, there are plenty of innovations to be seen at this Expo that may be completely normal in a few years time!

What we can learn from Expo 2020
Edwin Meijer

This article is written by:

Edwin Meijer

Co-founder & CMO

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