Why urban farming is the need of the hour in the pandemic era

Why urban farming is the need of the hour in the pandemic era
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Updated 11 January 2022

Why urban farming is the need of the hour in the pandemic era

Why urban farming is the need of the hour in the pandemic era

The writer is an adjunct professor at the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, University of Arizona.
Urban agriculture is the cultivation of vegetables and plants, and the raising of animals, poultry and fish within and around city limits to provide fresh food, create employment, recycle waste, and strengthen cities’ resilience to climate change.
Urban agriculture alleviates poverty and reduces food insecurity resulting from urbanization, at the same time improving the health of city residents and conserving the environment.
At the onset of the current COVID-19 pandemic, many countries imposed lockdowns to prevent the spread of the virus, resulting in the disruption of the food supply chain, food shortages and panic buying.
Consequently, countries including Saudi Arabia have strengthened their food security. Readily available fresh food within city limits has been seen as one of the solutions to providing food for citizens and residents.
Many governments have encouraged their populations to harness urban agriculture. Some countries have distributed vegetable seeds to enable people to grow vegetables in their community, while Singapore has allotted $30 million for urban agriculture practices such as vertical farming for food security.
Saudi Arabia is no exception: The leadership has allocated SR100 million ($27 million) to develop and localize vertical farming technologies.
The crucial importance of urban agriculture emanated from the Saudi leadership, spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, launching a development strategy to transform the city of Riyadh into one of the top 10 leading economies in the world; currently, Riyadh ranks 40th.
Leading the Riyadh city implementation strategy is the Royal Commission for Riyadh (RCRC), by monitoring and measuring more than 50 performance indicators, based on benchmarks from the world’s leading cities.
The paradigm shift encompasses the pillars of Saudi Vision 2030: A vibrant society, a thriving economy and an ambitious nation, to achieve a sustainable economic, social and environmental society.
Under the Riyadh city development strategy, by 2030 the anticipated population will double from the current 7.5 million to 15 to 20 million inhabitants, and there is expected to be an increase in the number of visitors to 40 million.
Riyadh’s competitive edge is that it possesses a well-built infrastructure ranging from the most advanced modern information technology to modern roads, a literacy rate of 97.59 percent and an educated young population, and is a key contributor to Saudi Arabia’s economy.
Regionally, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is already 64 percent urbanized. Much of the region’s future urban growth in absolute terms is projected to occur in the region’s primary cities, although faster growth in relative terms is projected to occur in its secondary cities.
Conflict and climate-driven migration as well as cross-border movement driven by the search for economic opportunity are unique considerations in the region and have been overriding some secular urbanization trends in a subset of countries, according to the World Bank. Globally, migration is over 54 percent, according to the UN.
One of the critical contexts of the rapid increase in urbanization is that it tends to increase urban poverty and urban food insecurity, and the number of people requiring clean water and sanitation.
Urban agriculture could improve the availability of a sustainable supply of fresh and healthy food for all residents within a city’s limits, for a short period of time.
Urban agriculture creates opportunities for employment. It enhances food security and subsequently national security, with Saudi being a food-secure country.
During times of crisis like the current COVID-19 pandemic, country lockdowns, civil war, or restrictions on imports, it plays a significant role in providing emergency food supplies.
The international community is beginning to recognize the important role of urban agriculture in improving the economy, environment and health of cities.
Harnessing urban agriculture from all the stakeholders’ perspectives, including institutions, entrepreneurs, supply chain, consumers and producers is potentially beneficial for all the key players.
There are several types of urban agriculture that can be classified as follows: Vertical farms, hydroponics, aquaponics, aeroponics, and backyard, rooftop gardens, animal husbandry, urban beekeeping, and greenhouses.

  1. Vertical farming: An agricultural process in which crops are grown in vertically stacked layers rather than spread out horizontally in traditional rows in fields.
  2. Hydroponics: This allows the roots of plants to grow in water solutions instead of soil.
  3. Aquaponics: Combines plant cultivation with aquaculture for fish farming.
  4. Aeroponics: A method that allows for potentially better oxygen access for plants, even less water usage and a lower chance of transmitting diseases.
  5. Backyard or rooftop garden: This is the growing of food in people’s homes or properties.
  6. Animal husbandry: Rearing animals for food in urban settings, such as poultry, goats, rabbits, or sheep.
  7. Urban beekeeping: Bees are important to the ecosystem as they not only produce honey but act as pollinators and promote biodiversity.
  8. Greenhouses: The practice of agriculture in residential, commercial, and communal urban spaces. It gives farmers the ability to grow a crop all year round as they provide a controlled environment where crops can be subjected to specific conditions required for their growth.

Benefits of urban agriculture

Economic benefits

  • Generates income: Urban agriculture leads to the establishment of new businesses, and not only provides income to the owners but also creates employment opportunities for people in the cities or communities.
  • Local government benefits: Enables the local government to raise revenue.
  • Provides education and training: Skills’ improvement and training for job opportunities.
  • Needs a minimum amount of water to grow vegetables and plants, and raise animals, poultry and fish.

Social benefits

  • Creates community participation: Urban agriculture provides opportunities to local communities to participate in related activities.
  • Maintaining of cultures: Cultural practices are also shared. Continued local interactions through urban agricultural activities create intergenerational bonds and people from different age brackets get to share significant information about certain food crops, vegetation, indigenous herbs, and domesticated animals such as poultry.
  • Health, nutrition and food accessibility benefits: Availability of a variety of fresh food, and food security.

Environmental benefits

  • Improved urban environment community: Supports biodiversity and improves air quality.
  • Reduction of the local carbon footprint: Helps in reducing the carbon footprint of the farms, especially emissions from transportation mediums. The green plantations also go a long way in acting as carbon sinks, particularly through the practice of urban forestry.
  • Crop preservation and new crop development: Urban agriculture creates homes for pollinators to increase the chances of preserving indigenous crops, which may not fare well under other conditions. It also leads to the breeding of new crops by sharing seeds.

Urban agriculture’s diverse activities create opportunities as well as challenges:

The opportunities

  • Requires minimum packaging, storage and transportation of food at it is closer to city limits.
  • Provides jobs and incomes.
  • Ready availability of fresh food.
  • Waste recycling and re-use possibilities.

The challenges

  • Environmental and health risks from unacceptable agricultural and aquacultural practices.
  • Increased competition for land, water, energy and labor.
  • Reduced environmental capacity for pollution absorption.


The need for a holistic and multi-sectoral approach to understanding and responding to urban agriculture is important, in particular where the growing populations in cities need to have an alternative or supplemental income to meet their expenses.
Strategic ways of dealing with the competition for water and land, as well as other environmental concerns, must be developed.
A research center of knowledge equipped with the technical capabilities to evaluate the appropriate place for urban agriculture for sustainable agricultural and urban food systems is required.
The application of technical knowledge with sociological and economic expertise, as well as practical experience, would be an innovative and timely initiative for sustainable urban agriculture to meet the needs of those living within city limits with easy access to fresh food.
Urban agriculture not only provides food, which is important; it also entails food security that enhances the national security of a country.

Argaam signs exclusive advertising agency agreement with Speakol

Argaam signs exclusive advertising agency agreement with Speakol
Updated 27 January 2022

Argaam signs exclusive advertising agency agreement with Speakol

Argaam signs exclusive advertising agency agreement with Speakol

RIYADH: Argaam Investment Company, the owner of Argaam portal, signed an exclusive advertising agency agreement with information technology service provider Speakol. Under the agreement, Speakol will serve as the advertising agent of Argaam’s platforms inside and outside the Kingdom.

Argaam is Saudi Arabia’s go-to-portal for financial data and economic analysis. It provides investors, analysts, and traders with real-time coverage of financial markets and macroeconomics in the Kingdom and other GCC markets. In October 2017, Argaam was acquired by Saudi Research and Media Group — formerly Saudi Research and Marketing Group.

Speakol is the leading content discovery and smart advertising network in the MENA and GCC regions with more than 600 websites in the Arab world.
Islam Zween, CEO of Argaam Investment, said: “The GCC economy has recently seen growth, especially in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This coincided with the remarkable growth in online advertising. Therefore, Argaam seeks to be the platform of choice for a wide range of public and private institutions. Our partnership with Speakol comes in line with this tendency.”

Mahmoud Talaat, chairman of Speakol, said: “We are pleased to sign this agreement with Argaam, with its unique position in the business community across the Kingdom and GCC region. We aspire that this agreement will serve as a cornerstone for joint coordinated efforts going forward.”

Amir Harby, chief business development officer, Speakol, said: “This agreement aims to provide distinguished and integrated advertising support for Argaam Investment Co., based on Speakol’s track record. It also comes as part of the company’s expansion strategy to provide all kinds of digital ads and technical solutions.”

Argaam’s website has a traffic of more than 600,000 visitors and over 60 million page views per month. The total number of visitors stands at around 3 million. The time spent on Argaam per visit reaches 20 minutes — the best duration when compared to Arabic content peers.

Mastercard Installments gives consumers more payment choices

Mastercard Installments gives consumers more payment choices
Updated 26 January 2022

Mastercard Installments gives consumers more payment choices

Mastercard Installments gives consumers more payment choices

Mastercard has expanded Mastercard Installments, its innovative “buy now, pay later” program that delivers greater choice at checkout, both in-store and online, to consumers in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The BNPL program will meet growing consumer demand for flexible, digital-first payment options, and support the region’s e-commerce ecosystem through a new program focused on providing consumers choice.

Mastercard Installments — set to go live later this year — uses the power of the company’s trusted network to make BNPL available to millions of consumers and merchants worldwide. It enables banks, lenders, fintech companies, and wallets to offer a variety of flexible installment options to consumers, including a zero percent interest, pay-in-four model. Implementation is handled by Mastercard and the acquirer with no lift to the merchant to offer this new payment choice, and no disruption to the existing customer experience.

Mastercard is working with leading partners representing a significant market share in the region including Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Network International, and National Bank of Ras Al-Khaimah in the UAE and Saudi National Bank in the Kingdom.

Mastercard Installments enables consumers to digitally access BNPL offers, either pre-approved through their lender’s mobile banking app or through instant approval during checkout. Consumers will have full transparency on lender practices up-front during the approval process, and unlike most current BNPL offerings, consumers will continue to benefit from zero liability fraud protection, the ability to challenge unrecognized charges, and the peace of mind that comes with Mastercard’s acceptance footprint.

Khalid Elgibali, division president for Middle East and North Africa, Mastercard, said: “Above everything, consumers today demand flexibility and choice. With Mastercard Installments, we want to give people the choice to pay how, when and where they want. This most recent product innovation builds on the trust between businesses and their customers with ‘buy now, pay later’ options benefitting everyone in the ecosystem.”

As Mastercard continues to design solutions for an evolving digital economy, we see BNPL becoming a standard for shopping, and we look forward to implementing this offering in the UAE and Saudi Arabia later this year.”

The Mastercard Installments program helps merchants scale BNPL offerings to consumers to turn convenience into a competitive advantage. BNPL solutions have been shown to increase average sales by 45 percent and reduce cart abandonment by 35 percent post-implementation. The program provides seamless merchant integration with a streamlined process for millions of merchants who already accept Mastercard. Meanwhile, acquiring banks can offer installments capabilities to their entire merchant base with minimal, simple integration.

F&B company Kerry Group opens new facility in Jeddah

F&B company Kerry Group opens new facility in Jeddah
Updated 26 January 2022

F&B company Kerry Group opens new facility in Jeddah

F&B company Kerry Group opens new facility in Jeddah

Kerry Group, a taste and nutrition company, officially opened a new 21,500-square-feet state-of-the-art facility in Jeddah. The company has invested more than €80 million ($90 million) in the region over the past four years. This new facility, which is Kerry’s largest in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey region, is said to be one of the most modern and efficient in the world and will produce nutritious and sustainable food ingredients, which will be distributed across the Middle East.

Through the new facility, which currently employs 130 people, Kerry will utilize its global innovation technologies that are adapted to local tastes to help food and beverage companies meet the growing consumer demand in the region for healthier, tastier and more sustainable food and beverages, particularly in snack, meat and bakery sectors.

Edmond Scanlon, chief executive of Kerry Group, said: “This new facility underscores our full support of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 to delight and nourish Saudi consumers by serving the region’s large and growing food and beverage market. By investing in the local economy, we are supporting the development and activities of local food and beverage companies, creating faster response times for customers and bolstering the local community by creating high-value jobs. There has been a Kerry presence in Saudi since 2018, when we acquired the company AATCO, and we look forward to continuing to grow our business in this important market.”

Peter Dillane, vice president and general manager, Kerry Middle East, India, Sub-Saharan Africa, added: “Our local investment in consumer research enables us to predict global and regional trends and customize to local taste preferences. We can also provide immediate solutions for rapid product development and delivery, from streamlining supply chains with local warehousing and flexible production, availability of ingredients made locally to superior Saudi standards and understanding of local regulatory policies, to reduced lead times to support growing local customers. I am confident the new Jeddah plant will build a sustainable future for the Saudi market through waste reduction, environmentally responsible practices and delicious, nutritious food products consumers will value. We are proud to support this exciting evolution in the region’s food and beverage industry.”

As part of Kerry’s Beyond the Horizon sustainability commitment, the new facility is also making an important environmental difference. Since 2018, the factory carbon footprint has been reduced by 35 percent and there has been a 40 percent reduction in water usage. Food safety is paramount and the new facility was built on state-of-the-art ready-to-eat standard of design and construction to uphold the strictest customer requirements for hygiene and food safety. Its stringent humidity and temperature-controlled environment ensures all materials are always fresh and ready to use anytime. The facility is FSSC 22000, HACCP, ISO 22000 and AIBI-certified.

Why Huawei P50 Pro is the must-have phone of 2022

Why Huawei P50 Pro is the must-have phone of 2022
Updated 25 January 2022

Why Huawei P50 Pro is the must-have phone of 2022

Why Huawei P50 Pro is the must-have phone of 2022

Smartphones are a person’s primary window to the wider world online, key communication device and constant companion, helping to work, play, communicate in this digital era and even relax. This is because the best smartphones today are much more than just phones — they come with state-of-the-art cameras, the sleekest designs, humongous batteries that can keep up with our hectic lifestyle, blazing fast-charging speeds, music libraries and much more. Besides, install the right apps on your phone and collaborate it with the right accessories and there is a compelling argument that you do not need any other piece of technology, as most people nowadays would use their phones as the primary device in their daily lives. 

With this in mind, Huawei Tech Investment Saudi Arabia is all set to announce the launch of its new flagship phone: The new Huawei P50 Pro, the latest addition to its P Series product line. With each installment of the P Series continuing the legendary story of Huawei photography, each generation represents the pinnacle of technological aesthetics and smart photography. 

The Huawei P50 Pro returns to the philosophies that sit at the heart of high-end photography, with its True-Form Dual-Matrix Camera that revamps the camera experience from head to toe, an elegant design that is depicted by the Dual-Matrix Camera, and a large battery that supports 66W Wired and 50W Wireless Huawei SuperCharge.

True-Form Dual-Matrix Camera 
The Huawei P50 Pro True-Form Dual-Matrix Camera comprises the powerful Main Camera Matrix and SuperZoom Matrix. The hardware is integrated with the Huawei XD Optics and Huawei XD Fusion Pro image engine, resulting in high-resolution images that are brighter, shot with more light taken in, and cleaner with more details. A new super color filter system with True-Chroma Image Engine and Super HDR technology provides comprehensive enhancements to details, colors and dynamic range. The True-Form Dual-Matrix Camera supports 4K video recording on both the front and rear, providing crystal-clear footage from every angle. 

In addition, if users are looking to photograph faraway objects, they can use the periscope zoom lens that supports maximum zoom range of up to 200 times. 

Dual-Matrix Camera design
Huawei P50 Pro’s design is out of this world. Unlike anything else on the market, the Dual-Matrix Camera design is the perfect combination of form and function. The double ring setup is visually striking and instantly recognizable. The Huawei P50 Pro uses a 3D curved screen with a single punch hole camera. With an HDR display supporting the full P3 color gamut, it delivers a stunning visual experience for both video entertainment and gameplay alike. The display on the Huawei P50 Pro features a 6.6-inch 120 Hz True-Chroma Display with a 300 Hz touch-sampling rate. With an IP68 rating, you can be sure you will be protected from the elements when out and about.

Large battery with SuperCharge support
The Huawei P50 Pro achieves a perfect balance of battery life and fast-charging speed. It incorporates a massive 4,360 mAh battery into its slim body, while also supporting 66W Huawei SuperCharge and 50W Wireless Huawei SuperCharge. 

Super Device features
The Huawei P50 Pro runs on EMUI 12, which offers a straightforward, smooth, safe and reliable user experience for working, studying, gaming, entertainment or video editing. Thanks to the Super Device features, Huawei has consolidated different tools into the Control Panel (Device+) menu. With a simple swipe, users can explore the Control Panel and get quick access to audio playback, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth settings, making it easier to control multiple devices as if they were controlling just one device.

With the Distributed File System, the Huawei P50 Pro can also function as a wirelessly connected external storage unit for the PC, meaning users can access the files they want more easily than ever before. Using the Huawei P50 Pro, users can also transfer MeeTime calls to Huawei Vision smart TV and conduct the call by taking advantage of the larger display, camera and speakers. Users may also conveniently share their screen during a video and even mark key places, to bring important insights directly into view. 

The Huawei P50 Pro is truly set to revolutionize the flagship phones segment this year and that is why it is being touted as one of the most popular phones of 2022.

Bahraini author’s book on Gandhi to be launched in four languages

Bahraini author’s book on Gandhi to be launched in four languages
Updated 25 January 2022

Bahraini author’s book on Gandhi to be launched in four languages

Bahraini author’s book on Gandhi to be launched in four languages

A virtual launch of the English, Hindi, Urdu and Malayalam editions of the Arabic-language book “Gandhi: His Engagement with Islam and the Arab World,” written by Abdulnabi Alshoala, will be held via Zoom at 4 p.m. on Jan. 26, at the Isa Cultural Center, Manama.

Alshoala will be joined on the occasion by Piyush Srivastava, Indian ambassador to Bahrain; Abdul Rahman Mohammed Juma, chairman of the Bahrain India Society; and Dr. Shobhana Radhakrishna, an internationally renowned Gandhi scholar, who will be the keynote speaker. The book launch event has been organized by the Bahrain India Society.

The book, first published in Arabic two years ago and now in its third print run in the regional language, was snapped up by four different publishing houses in India.

The English-language translation, published by a leading Indian company, is already in its second print run, with the Indian languages versions also ready for the international market.

Alshoala is the chairman of Dar Albilad for Journalism, Publishing and Distribution Co. B.S.C. and the founding chairman and adviser to the board of Alfanar Investment Holding Co. B.S.C. Over his long career, Alshoala has served as minister of labor and social affairs, and later as Cabinet minister of state.

He also served as a member of Bahrain’s advisory council and has also been elected to the board of directors of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“Gandhi: His Engagement with Islam and the Arab World” is both Alshoala’s homage to the great Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, known by the honorific “Mahatma” (meaning “venerable”), and an effort seeking to address issues faced by Islam and Muslim countries in a Gandhian way.

“Gandhi’s main principle was to solve differences through dialogue,” Alshoala said. “History shows that he was able to wrest the jewel of the British Empire from them through a policy of nonviolence. As we look around this region and see so much conflict and wars all around, this is my humble way of suggesting that non-violence and dialogue would serve all concerned well going forward.”