How Saudi Arabia is building a sustainable agricultural sector through innovation

The farm in Wadi Bin Hashbal, Asir, covers over 3.2 million square meters and is recognized by the Guinness World Records. (Supplied photos/File))
Short Url
Updated 09 June 2024
Follow

How Saudi Arabia is building a sustainable agricultural sector through innovation

  • A vertical farm in Riyadh has produced a greater yield of strawberries than local farmers at a fraction of the water usage
  • Wadi Bin Hashbal, the Kingdom’s Guinness World Record-breaking sustainable farm, uses treated water to irrigate its crops

RIYADH: Climate change poses a significant threat to agriculture, with serious implications for food security, livelihoods and access to water. That is why Saudi Arabia is adopting a range of innovative and sustainable farming practices.

As summer temperatures become more intense around the world, crop yields are dwindling and water scarcity mounting, raising the specter of food insecurity in some regions and higher prices on domestic and global markets.

Agriculture is also a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. About 24 percent of human-induced emissions are the result of agriculture, forestry and land use activities, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

To limit the environmental harm caused by farming while also adapting crop production to hotter, drier conditions, governments and businesses worldwide are adopting new technologies, methods and practices in pursuit of sustainable agriculture.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, strategies for agriculture and forestry, unlike in other sectors, can simultaneously increase adaptive capacity and mitigate climate change if implemented sustainably.

Sustainable agriculture refers to methods and practices that preserve the environment, protect natural resources, ensure the security of food supply chains and provide sufficient returns for farmers.

Saudi Arabia has established several sustainable agriculture initiatives, including efforts to promote the use of treated water for irrigation and the adoption of soilless farming techniques — measures designed to meet the needs of a changing demographic.

By 2045, the world’s urban population is projected to increase by 1.5 times to 6 billion, according to the World Bank. With many more people leaving rural areas in search of opportunities in the cities, the way food is produced and distributed requires a rethink.

That is why Saudi Arabia is exploring the use of urban farming technology, including vertical farming or soilless culture, as a potential solution.




Vertical farming addresses the challenges of limited land availability, seasonality of crops, and a growing global population. (Shutterstock)

Vertical or soilless farming refers to a method of growing plants without the use of soil, whereby nutrients are delivered to the roots through water — a process also known as hydroponics.

Soilless plants utilize drip or mist irrigation techniques, enabling a more controlled dispensation of water, preventing water wastage. This technique saves 98 percent more water than traditional farming, according to the World Economic Forum.

Areas struggling with water scarcity, poor soil fertility, salinity, or sodicity could benefit from this method, not only to conserve water and reduce pesticide usage, but also to allow for year-round crop production.

The National Research and Development Center for Sustainable Agriculture, or Estidamah, is a standalone legal not-for-profit research center based in Saudi Arabia. Its vertical farming program aims to optimize crop production — mainly leafy vegetables and strawberries.




The National Research and Development Center for Sustainable Agriculture, or Estidamah, has been producing high-yield tomatoes at its greenhouses. (Estidamah photo)

To bolster this initiative, the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture set aside SR100 million ($27 million). In 2021, scientists from Estidamah and Wageningen University in The Netherlands managed to cultivate Estavana variety strawberries in a greenhouse in Riyadh.

The resulting strawberry yield, and that of two other varieties, was considerably greater than that of local farmers, demonstrating the technology’s immense potential.

However, Saudi Arabia’s commitment to sustainable agriculture is perhaps best demonstrated by the methods and practices used at Wadi Bin Hashbal — a mega farm situated in the mountainous southwestern Asir region.

“This farm is the largest sustainable research demonstration or experimental farm in the world, with an area exceeding 3.2 million square meters, as is recognized by the Guinness World Records,” Ahmed Al-Mujthal, director-general of the Ministry of Environment and Water’s Asir branch, told Arab News.

One of the most impressive features of the farm is its use of treated water to irrigate crops. “The treated water is divided into municipal and industrial wastewater, with each type requiring specific treatment plants,” said Al-Mujthal.

DID YOUKNOW?

• Saudi Arabia exports wheat, dates, dairy products, eggs, fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables and even flowers.

• Wadi bin Hashbal’s sustainable farm is recognized by Guinness World Records as the largest in the world using treated water to irrigate crops.

• Urban farming and treating wastewater for irrigation are some of the sustainable agricultural practices adopted by Saudi Arabia.

The primary treatment phase removes large particles and oils, the secondary treatment phase involves aerobic bacteria, and the tertiary treatment uses filters to remove remaining pollutants and odors.

“Chlorination is done to eliminate microbes and treated water is suitable for all uses except direct human consumption,” said Al-Mujthal. “The amount of water produced from the treatment plants in the Asir region exceeds 240,000 cubic meters per day.”

The treated water is then transported across the region to where it is needed. “There are four main treated water plants in the Asir region, all of which rely on the triple treatment method and are completely suitable for irrigating all crops,” Al-Mujthal added.

Wadi Bin Hashbal has about 16,000 trees yielding eight varieties of seasonal fruit, in addition to 2,400 non-fruiting local trees and a field designated for growing fodder and raising livestock. It also contains five protected, air-conditioned farms designated for research.




The success of the Kingdom’s sustainable agriculture projects bodes well for climate-vulnerable nations around the globe. (Supplied photos/File)

“More importantly is monitoring the quality of water and soil that is carried out on the farm by constantly taking samples and analyzing them in specialized laboratories accredited by the ministry,” said Al-Mujthal.

This is in addition to measuring the temperature and humidity in the soil, and the amount of rain and wind speed on the site through the climate station established on the farm.

The Asir region was strategically chosen for the farm as it is characterized by a unique geography, the fertility of its soil and its favorable climate.

“In general, the data received from the competent authorities indicates that the average rainfall in the Asir region exceeds 300 mm per year,” said Al-Mujthal. In mountainous areas with dense vegetation, rainfall can even exceed 500 mm per year.

“Other factors include the relative abundance of surface and groundwater in addition to the presence of excellent infrastructure in the Asir region for drainage and water treatment,” Al-Mujthal added.

The success of the Kingdom’s sustainable agriculture projects bodes well for climate-vulnerable nations around the globe that are struggling to adapt to water scarcity and rising temperatures.

Indeed, if crops can be grown sustainably in Saudi Arabia — one of the hottest and driest places on the planet — there is hope yet for agriculture in a changing world.
 

 


10 investors convicted of violating Saudi financial market rules

Updated 12 sec ago
Follow

10 investors convicted of violating Saudi financial market rules

  • One sentenced to prison, all were ordered to pay 101.7 million riyals in compensation to losses
  • The investors were charged by the Public Prosecution upon referral by the Capital Market Authority
  • The "final decision" was issued by the Appeal Committee for Resolution of Securities Disputes

RIYADH: Ten investors had been convicted of violating Saudi Arabia's Capital Market Law and were ordered to pay the Capital Market Authority a total of SAR 101.7 million in fines and compensation for losses, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Thursday.

In a "final decision" the Appeal Committee for Resolution of Securities Disputes, or ACRSD, sentenced one of the convicted individuals to imprisonment, the SPA report said, citing a statement by the General Secretariat of the Committees for Resolution of Securities Disputes. The statement said the "final decision" was issued by the ACRSD on 11/06/1445 Hijri, corresponding to December 24, 2023.

The amount of SR101.7 million constituted SR670,000 in fines for the ten convicts and SR101 million riyals as compensation from all ten convicts and a female investor for losses resulting from the violations committed in their investment portfolios, the report added.

Named in the ruling were Mish'al bin Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Alkhudari, Naif bin Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Alali, Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Alkhudari, Ghada bint Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Alkhudari, Sami bin Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Alkhudari, Fawaz bin Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Alkhudari, Jameel bin Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Alkhudari, Ali bin Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Alkhudari, Fawzi bin Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Alali, and Fawzia bint Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Alali.

The convictions were also announced online in detail by the ACRSD and the Capital Market Authority (CMA). According to the CRSD statement, cases were filed against the ten investors by the Public Prosecution upon referral by the CMA.

In a statement posted on its website and on the social media platform X, CMA said: "One of the convicts was held responsible for making an incorrect statement in the announcement published by a listed company in the capital market. This was done to affect the price of the security or to urge others to purchase the security, in addition to his responsibility for neglecting to disclose essential developments in the company."

CMA also said some of the convicts "disclosed internal information relating to the financial position of a listed company in the capital market and the possibility of its bankruptcy," while other convicts engaged in trading based on the illegally disclosed internal information, intending to benefit from it before it was announced and made available to the general public."

In its ruling, the ACRSD ordered sentenced Fawaz bin Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Alkhudari to six months in prison and to pay a fine SR330,000. It also banned him from working in companies, shares of which are traded in the Saudi exchange for six years.

Fawaz bin Abdullah was found by the court to have disclosed internal information relating to the financial position of Abdullah A. M. Al-Khodari Sons Co. and the possibility of its bankruptcy.

Also found guilty of disclosing internal information were Jameel bin Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Alkhudari and Ali bin Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Alkhudari.

Mish'al bin Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Alkhudari was ordered to pay to the CMA account the amount of SR. 11,036,678.01 "against the avoided loses as a result of the violations committed in his investment portfolio. He was also banned from working in companies, shares of which are traded in the Saudi exchange for one year.

Sami bin Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Alkhudari was told to pay to the CMA SR12,070,268.61; Naif bin Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Alali, SR8,482,596.89; Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Alkhudari, SR9,226,817.79; Ghada bint Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Alkhudari, SR1,370,918.10; Fawzi bin Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Alali, SR8,116,873.04; and Fawzia bint Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Alali, SR. 187,709.75. All of them were banned from working in companies, shares of which are traded in the Saudi exchange for one year.

Ali bin Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Alkhudari imposed only a fine of SR100,000 but banned for two years from working in companies, shares of which are traded in the Saudi exchange.

"One investor to pay to the CMA the total amount of (SR. 50,581,879.82) fifty million five hundred eighty-one thousand eight hundred seventy-nine Saudi Riyals and eighty-two Halalas against the avoided loses as a result of the violations committed in its investment portfolio performed by the convicted person; Fawaz bin Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Alkhudari," the ARCSD announcement said.

The GS-CRSD urged other individuals affected by the abovementioned violations to file a compensation claim with the CMA.

GS-CRSD said it will announce to the public on its website in case any class action would be filed so that other investors affected by such violations could join.


Al-Jubeir reviews Saudi Arabia’s climate efforts at FII Brazil summit

Updated 14 June 2024
Follow

Al-Jubeir reviews Saudi Arabia’s climate efforts at FII Brazil summit

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s climate envoy Adel Al-Jubeir said the Kingdom is one of the largest investors in clean energy and has huge projects aimed at reducing the effects of climate change and initiatives to enhance global climate action.

Al-Jubeir, who is also the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Cabinet member, added that these projects include a waste recycling program, Middle East Green Initiative, and one of the largest hydrogen schemes in the world, which is being established in NEOM. 

During the Future Investment Initiative Institute’s Priority Summit in Brazil, he tackled the Kingdom’s role and efforts in energy development, and its goal to be one of the largest exporters of all types of energy, including clean, renewable and traditional energy.

He reviewed the most prominent objectives of the Saudi Vision 2030 and its focus on improving the quality of life, empowering youth and attracting investments to achieve stability, growth and prosperity in the Kingdom.

Al-Jubeir said the Kingdom is working to intensify its communication and rapprochement with the world to face climate challenges, as it is located between three continents, and is surrounded by the most important waterways. It is also one of the important countries in energy markets, and one of the investors in global markets.

FII Priority is a program that consists of summits, initiatives, and resolutions, focusing on humanity’s priorities, concerns, and hopes. The Rio de Janeiro summit is designed to deliver impactful change by transforming ideas into tangible solutions, according to the institute. 


Pilgrims reminded of benefits provided by Tawakkalna app during Hajj

Updated 13 June 2024
Follow

Pilgrims reminded of benefits provided by Tawakkalna app during Hajj

  • The services it provides include alerts for pilgrims, a distress call function, weather updates, help to determine the direction to face the Kaaba for prayer, and prayer timings
  • The app provides support for seven languages: Arabic, English, Filipino, Indonesian, Bangladeshi, Urdu and Hindi

MAKKAH: Authorities have reminded pilgrims that the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority’s Tawakkalna app provides access to several digital services that can help them during Hajj.
The app provides support for seven languages: Arabic, English, Filipino, Indonesian, Bangladeshi, Urdu and Hindi. The services it provides include the latest information and alerts for pilgrims as they perform Hajj rituals; weather updates for Makkah and Madinah provided by the National Center of Meteorology; readings from the Qur’an; help to determine the qibla, the direction to face the Kaaba for prayer; and prayer timings.
Pilgrims can also use Tawakkalna to display their digital Hajj card (Nusuk), while Hajj workers can access entry permits for holy sites. A “rituals” section gives pilgrims with Hajj permit the option to obtain a permit for Umrah, and provides other services such as a “Help Me” section, a distress call function, and a way to check volunteers’ credentials.
Authorities said the app has 32 million users, provides 315 electronic services, and can be used in more than 77 countries. The annual Hajj pilgrimage will begin on Friday, June 14 and continue until Wednesday, June 19.


Saudi leaders send condolences to leader of Malawi over death of vice president

Updated 13 June 2024
Follow

Saudi leaders send condolences to leader of Malawi over death of vice president

  • King Salman: We express to your excellency and your friendly people our deepest condolences and sincere sympathy
  • Deaths of Saulos Klaus Chilima and the others were confirmed on Tuesday when the wreckage of the small military plane in which they were traveling was discovered

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sent a message of condolence and sympathy to Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera following the deaths of Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima and nine others in a plane crash.

The king wrote: “We received news of the death of the vice president of the Republic of Malawi, Mr. Saulos Klaus Chilima, and his companions, and we express to your excellency and your friendly people our deepest condolences and sincere sympathy.”

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent a similar message to the president, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The deaths of Chilima and the others were confirmed on Tuesday when the wreckage of the small military plane in which they were traveling was discovered in a mountainous region in the north of the country. Contact with the aircraft had been lost the previous day. The victims also included former first lady Shanil Dzimbiri, the ex-wife of former Malawian President Bakili Muluzi, and three military crew members.

  • With AP

Egypt’s president prays in the Prophet’s Mosque ahead of Hajj

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi prayed at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah on Thursday. (SPA)
Updated 13 June 2024
Follow

Egypt’s president prays in the Prophet’s Mosque ahead of Hajj

  • The annual pilgrimage starts on Friday and El-Sisi will be taking part this year

RIYADH: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi arrived in the Saudi city of Madinah on Thursday and prayed at the Prophet’s Mosque, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

El-Sisi was received by Prince Salman bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, the governor of the Madinah region, and a number of local officials on his arrival at Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport.

The annual pilgrimage starts on Friday and El-Sisi will be taking part this year.