JEDDAH: The one method is up as enterprising Saudi crop growers more and more take the technological leap from conventional to vertical farming strategies.
Though the Kingdom’s numerous climate situations make it splendid for rising a wide range of produce, conventional farming is extremely seasonal.
Consequently, the nation’s agricultural sector has steadily been transferring towards extra sustainable, cost-effective manufacturing techniques, equivalent to vertical farming, to supply year-round yields.
When Dana Enany observed a spot out there for native produce, she determined to discover vertical farming on her Jeddah-based holding, Jana.
She instructed Arab Information: “I used to be at all times intrigued by the farm-to-table idea, and I needed to create this expertise at hand in Saudi Arabia.”
Jana Farm by Mowreq, a specialised agriculture firm, goals to supply locals with clear, pesticide-free, wholesome, and nutritious produce.
Enany stated she selected the vertical farming technique, “as a result of it makes use of a managed surroundings the place there may be regular produce with out seasonality.”
Greater than 120 totally different crops have been test-grown earlier than a ultimate product vary was settled upon. To display that crops might be grown underneath the hardest situations, the undertaking began in Jeddah, the place the arid local weather poses main challenges for agriculture.
Jana Farm operates an indoor hydroponic irrigation system that makes use of as much as 10 occasions much less water than conventional rising strategies and recycles no less than 90 p.c of the water, consistent with the Kingdom’s sustainability targets.
The method makes use of water-based mineral nutrient options fairly than soil.
“By rising crops regionally in Saudi Arabia, and supplying them completely to the Saudi market, our produce incurs far fewer meals miles than imported produce. Therefore, our carbon footprint is way smaller,” Enany added.
With the inhabitants rising and out there arable land declining, vertical farming affords main environmental and manufacturing benefits over conventional methods.
Enany stated: “Like most vertical farmers, we don’t prefer to be known as natural as a result of we imagine that the produce we develop is of a better high quality than natural.”
Along with salad gadgets, the farm additionally grows wild rocket, edible flowers, microgreens, and herbs together with basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, dill, and chives.
The farm’s recent produce may be bought all year long at supermarkets in Jeddah and through on-line platforms.
Though by no means having studied agriculture, Enany was at all times drawn to the sector.
She stated: “I’ve at all times been obsessed with agriculture and lured towards the thought of sustainability on this business.”
Gaining a grasp’s diploma in enterprise administration from London Enterprise Faculty was “an eye-opener” for her as an entrepreneur within the agricultural sector.
“I imagine that the demand for high quality native produce in Saudi is excessive, particularly since we import greater than 80 p.c of our meals,” she added.
In 2021, the Ministry of Surroundings, Water, and Agriculture allotted SR100 million ($27 million) to develop and localize vertical-farming applied sciences as a method of not solely maintaining tempo with demand however lowering desertification.
In December, Mowreq signed a three way partnership with YesHealth Group, an organization with a number of vertical farm operations in Asia and Europe.
Together with Enany, the Vertical Farms Co. is owned by 4 Saudi companions with a shared imaginative and prescient; Obeid Bin Zagr, who has expertise in farming and the fast-moving client items business; Khder Al-Ghamdi who has a background in laptop science; and Modar Nazer who has labored in healthcare, consulting, and banking.
“We’re all obsessed with positively contributing to our nation,” Enany stated.
The three way partnership will set up a community of vertical farms all through Saudi Arabia, beginning with one on the outskirts of Riyadh. It should cowl 4,500 sq. meters of ground area, and will probably be 16 meters excessive, leading to an space of 20,000 sq. meters to develop crops.
“It will likely be the tallest vertical farm within the Center East, and one of many largest when it comes to productiveness,” she added.
The brand new vertical farms will develop into operational within the fourth quarter of this yr.
Enany stated: “The market in Saudi Arabia is very large and we want many farms to fulfil the demand. We’re glad to see that the personal sector can be investing in controlled-environment agriculture.
“Mowreq, being the primary mover in Saudi Arabia’s vertical farming business, has given us a lot expertise and confidence, making this the propitious time for us to increase our presence throughout Saudi Arabia.
“We’ve proved how this technique can work efficiently in our nation. Though every vertical farm and firm has its personal requirements, we tailored overseas applied sciences to what really works within the Kingdom, and we developed information that’s particular to this space,” she added.
The farm may even rely on using sensible agriculture know-how, which creates managed local weather, lighting, and diet mandatory for essentially the most environment friendly and sustainable surroundings for plant progress.
“The newest applied sciences, equivalent to LED lighting, Gelponics, software program for crunching all of the controlled-environment knowledge, automation, and robotics are all utilized on our farms.
“We will probably be making use of water-based gel substrate to develop our crops sustainably, minimizing waste,” Enany stated.
The Riyadh farm can have a most manufacturing capability of two tons per day or 900 tons per yr. The calculation has been primarily based on the load of lettuces, however the farm may even develop lighter crops equivalent to herbs, which is able to have an effect on the true manufacturing capability.
In the meantime, Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund has signed a three way partnership settlement with US-based AeroFarms to determine an organization in Riyadh to construct and function indoor vertical farms within the Kingdom and the broader Center East and North Africa area.
The deal will permit the three way partnership to make use of AeroFarms’ proprietary sensible agriculture know-how platform, AgTech, to supply high-quality crops all year long.