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
Short Url
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.

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.”

Il Baretto Riyadh is KAFD’s first dining destination

Il Baretto Riyadh is KAFD’s first dining destination
Updated 25 January 2022

Il Baretto Riyadh is KAFD’s first dining destination

Il Baretto Riyadh is KAFD’s first dining destination

Authentic Italian restaurant Il Baretto has opened its premier international location in Riyadh. The London-born restaurant’s new venue is the first restaurant and dining experience in the King Abdullah Financial District, marking the launch of an exciting new chapter within the heart of the Kingdom’s financial center.

Spanning across 1.6 million square meters, KAFD is an award-winning smart city that serves as a local and regional financial hub. Home to some of the Middle East’s most exclusive office and residential addresses, KAFD is an internationally recognized authority for sustainability and a dynamic destination for business and entertainment.

Co-founded by restaurateurs Arjun Waney of Zuma, Roka, Coya, LPM and The Arts Club, and Giuliano Lotto of Zafferano, Memory of China and Aubergine, Il Baretto is renowned for its simple and authentic Italian menu, which draws influence from specialty dishes and regional Italian produce.

The restaurant, which opened on Nov. 19, 2021, has been launched in partnership with prominent Saudi restaurateur Mohammed Jawa, who holds more than 18 years of experience within the local market.


The menu includes a curation of Italian favorites as well as modern classics such as veal Milanese, whole sea bass, lobster linguine, salmon carpaccio, and wood-fired northern Italian pizza.

Il Baretto Riyadh, together with Jawa’s forthcoming launches within the district, which are set to include Zuma, Amazonico, Mr. Chow, Aok and Black Tap, are expected to play a pivotal role in the development of KAFD.

The brand’s Riyadh location will showcase Il Baretto’s complete gastronomical offering. The menu includes a curation of Italian favorites as well as modern classics such as veal Milanese, whole sea bass, lobster linguine, salmon carpaccio, and wood-fired northern Italian pizza.

Il Baretto Riyadh merges signature design elements from its Marylebone location with contemporary influences inspired by KAFD, presenting a charming new interior concept that pays homage to its inaugural role as the district’s first restaurant.

The restaurant accommodates guests within its main dining area as well as on an elegant outdoor terrace, offering a relaxed Italian gastronomical experience that reinterprets the warmth and charm of its flagship London venue.

LuLu showcases Indian food & fashion in week-long festival

LuLu showcases Indian food  & fashion in week-long festival
Updated 25 January 2022

LuLu showcases Indian food & fashion in week-long festival

LuLu showcases Indian food  & fashion in week-long festival

LuLu Hypermarket has flagged off a week of festivities to celebrate the Republic Day of India (Jan. 26). Titled “India Utsav,” the colorful shopping festival showcases the beautiful ethnic fashions of India and the variety of foods that make up the country’s different regional cuisines.

The festival was inaugurated on Jan. 23 by Dr. Ausaf Sayeed, Indian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, in the presence of Shehim Mohammed, director of LuLu Hypermarkets Saudi Arabia, government officials, and other dignitaries, at LuLu Hypermarket Riyadh Avenue Mall, Murabba.

In Jeddah, the festival was inaugurated by Mohd. Shahid Alam, consul general of India, Jeddah. The event is being celebrated at all LuLu stores across the Kingdom and runs until Jan. 29.

Ambassador Sayeed said: “The LuLu Group plays a great role in being a bridge between India and Saudi Arabia, as a corporate giant with an Indian heart, roots in the Kingdom and a global presence. Not only has the group pushed the envelope in promoting Indian products in the region, it has also leveraged its knowledge of India to invest in projects that will generate employment and create valuable channels of wealth generation for Indian farmers and retailers. I am very pleased to note that LuLu Group is opening new outlets in different parts of the Kingdom, which is an indication of its popularity among the local population.”

For “Indian Utsav,” LuLu has flown in more than 7,000 products in different categories, from fresh fruits and vegetables to meat, and traditional wear like sarees and churidars. Moreover, on offer is a huge range of freshly prepared hot foods, from biryanis to curries, popular street foods, traditional sweets, and many more Indian delicacies.


•The festival features a number of promotions to help shoppers discover the wonders of Indian food and fashion.

•There are discounts on rice, traditional breakfast powders, cereals, spices, meats and ready-to-cook snacks and food.

Mohammed said: “The ‘India Utsav’ is always an enjoyable shopping event where Saudi shoppers can indulge their love for all things Indian. We have always taken pride in showcasing the beauty and diversity of Indian culture through a festival like this. Lulu has a strong connect with its Indian markets and has continued to maintain it over the years with extraordinary sales.

“This is our humble tribute to the glorious traditions, food and offerings, which have made their way into the hearts of the Kingdom’s population. This is also our initiative to bind together all communities for a common interest, through food, fashion, films, and tourism.”

The festival features a number of promotions to help shoppers discover the wonders of Indian food and fashion; there are discounts on rice, traditional breakfast powders, cereals, spices, meats and ready-to-cook snacks and food. In addition, there is a “Buy 2, Get 1 Free” offer on clothing for the whole family.

LuLu, which has its own food processing plants and sourcing offices in India, recently introduced a new range of products, featuring organic, low-fat, gluten-free and diet-based food options, that are popular with health-conscious shoppers.

Riding in style: Porsche unveils Cayenne special edition

Riding in style: Porsche unveils Cayenne special edition
Updated 23 January 2022

Riding in style: Porsche unveils Cayenne special edition

Riding in style: Porsche unveils Cayenne special edition

Porsche is launching a new Platinum Edition of selected Cayenne models. This special edition of the SUV is characterized by exclusive design elements in a satin Platinum paint finish as well as by additional standard equipment. The result is a particularly stylish appearance paired with an attractive price. Platinum Editions of the 250 kW (340 PS) Cayenne and the Cayenne E-Hybrid with 340 kW (462 PS) are available, as well as the corresponding Coupé variants.

The refined appearance of the Cayenne Platinum Edition includes numerous model-specific details in satin-finish Platinum such as the inlays in the slats of the air intakes at the front, the Porsche lettering integrated in the LED rear light strip, the model designation at the rear and the standard 21-inch RS Spyder Design wheels, which are reserved exclusively for this special edition. Sport tailpipes and side window trims in black further emphasize the sporty yet elegant look of the special series. Matching solid colors in white and black, metallic paint finishes in Jet Black, Carrara White, Mahogany, Moonlight Blue and the special color Crayon are available.

Crayon seat belts and brushed aluminum door entry sills with the “Platinum Edition” logo add a special touch to the stylishly designed interior, as do the textured aluminum interior package and silver-colored trims.

The Cayenne Platinum Edition also comes with extended equipment as standard. This includes LED headlights including Porsche Dynamic Light System, the panoramic roof system, a Bose surround-sound system, ambient lighting, eight-way leather sports seats, the Porsche Crest on the front and rear headrests, and an analogue clock on the dashboard. Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur also offers a wide range of refinement options for the interior and exterior — from selective changes to extensive modifications.

The Platinum Edition of the Cayenne is available to order now, with deliveries starting in the second half of the year.