Start up of the Week: Jazan startup pioneers smart aquaculture

Special Aquaculture projects are ‘capital intensive and require large investments to reach economies of scale.’ (Shutterstock)
Aquaculture projects are ‘capital intensive and require large investments to reach economies of scale.’ (Shutterstock)
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Updated 30 January 2022

Start up of the Week: Jazan startup pioneers smart aquaculture

Start up of the Week: Jazan startup pioneers smart aquaculture

RIYADH: The Saudi International Marine Exhibition & Conference, to be held in Riyadh from Jan. 30 to Feb.1, will showcase the Kingdom’s seafood industry as a major investment draw.

While fishing has been practiced in the Gulf region for millennia, a range of new technologies and methods herald rapid growth of this sector.

A case in point is the Red Sea Aquaculture Co., operator of a shrimp and fish farm situated near the Kingdom’s southwestern port of Jazan. RSACO has invested six years of research and development into the implementation of the Biofloc system, a form of biotechnology utilizing “good” bacteria and algae to improve water quality, waste treatment and disease prevention in intensive aquaculture systems.

Aquaculture — the farming, harvesting and processing of marine products — is driven by two factors in the Kingdom.

FASTFACT

5,000

RSACO is now at the stage of soft production of shrimp and tilapia fish, with plans to reach 5,000 metric tons of marine products per annum, and is now reaching out to institutional investors to enable a fully commercial operation within a matter of months.

First is the effort to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil and to diversify its economy, with smart agriculture and food production being a key pillar of the Vision 2030 program for economic and social reform.

Second is the value of seafood as a healthy and, if managed properly, sustainable source of protein, minerals and vitamins — improved health of the Saudi population being another central aim of Vision 2030.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture wants to expand the Kingdom’s aquaculture sector from the current 77,000 tons to 600,000 tons per annum, while doubling per capita fish consumption from 11 kg per annum — as estimated by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization — to the global average of 22 kg by 2030.

RSACO is taking up the challenge. CEO Ziyad Al-Rahmah told Arab News: “We’re a 100 percent Saudi-owned company, with SR30 million ($8 million) worth of private investment to date.”

The company’s R and D has been evaluated by the Global Seafood Alliance, a not-for-profit organization advocating responsible seafood practices worldwide, which concluded that “implementing Biofloc technology is feasible for shrimp production in the desert environmental conditions of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

RSACO is now at the stage of soft production of shrimp and tilapia fish, with plans to reach 5,000 metric tons of marine products per annum, and is now reaching out to institutional investors to enable a fully commercial operation within a matter of months.

“Aquaculture projects are capital intensive and require large investments to reach economies of scale, with a similar business model to the supply of dairy and poultry products,” Al-Rahmah noted. “To be profitable and sustainable, an aquaculture operation must also process the raw material in order to supply value-added products to consumers. Vertical diversity is a great advantage for any producer.”

Having invested considerable time, money and faith, Al-Rahman is now confident of long-term success, not just for RSACO but for the Kingdom’s aquaculture industry as a whole.

“There is a huge potential for export of seafood produced in Saudi Arabia, mainly shellfish and fish, but also seaweed, sea cucumbers, sea urchins and many other ocean species, for markets in the Far East, Europe and America,” Al-Rahmah said.

“For example, the Red Sea is the natural habitat for a variety of crab that retails at $50 per kilo, with each grown female crab carrying five million eggs with a potential market value of $250 million.”

This has positive implications for employment in the Kingdom. With the necessary levels of investment, Saudi Arabia’s aquaculture sector could generate a broad range of technical and skilled jobs for the local workforce — another highlight of the SIMEC conference.

“Vision 2030 has set an ambitious goal for seafood production,” Al-Rahmah noted, “and this presents a great opportunity for both Saudi and foreign investors.”


First metaverse project 2117 launches in the UAE inspired by Dubai ruler’s vision

First metaverse project 2117 launches in the UAE inspired by Dubai ruler’s vision
Updated 24 September 2022

First metaverse project 2117 launches in the UAE inspired by Dubai ruler’s vision

First metaverse project 2117 launches in the UAE inspired by Dubai ruler’s vision
  • The metaverse is aligned with Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center’s layout for Mars

DUBAI: The UAE-based Web3 pioneer BEDU launched the country’s first metaverse project under the name 2117, inspired by the ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum’s vision to build the first colony on Mars.

BEDU’s CEO Amin Alzarouni told Arab News that the metaverse’s name, 2117, comes from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum’s announcement in 2017 that the first colony on Mars would be built a hundred years from then.

“So that’s why we call the metaverse 2117, inspired by that vision,” he said.

The newly launched metaverse is aligned with Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center’s space layout for Mars, and BEDU plans to build a full world on it that includes residential buildings, hotels, entertainment centers, schools, universities, and healthcare facilities, Alzarouni informed.

According to him, millions of dollars have been invested in the metaverse project without providing a specific figure.

Besides claiming that the firm’s name is derived from the Bedouin term, Alzarouni added that the firm’s mission is to follow the nomads’ footsteps and discover the next planet.

“They [nomads] basically discovered the land here, discovered Earth, and now we are going to continue discovering different areas, and the next destination is Mars,” he said.

SPEEDREAD

According to the CEO, millions of dollars have been invested in the metaverse project. He says the firm’s mission is to discover the next planet.

He explained that 2117 is an immersive digital world that exists in parallel to reality. It will take 95 years for the Mars vision to become a reality in the real world.

The main focus of metaverse 2117, according to Alzarouni, is the value of humanity, regardless of its apparent space orientation.

“We are focusing a lot on humanity and the values of humanity, which is how people can live together with tolerance, with no differentiation between religion, culture and race,” he said.

Alzarouni explained that 2117 is an immersive digital world that exists in parallel to reality. It will take 95 years for the Mars vision to become a reality in the real world, but BEDU is already achieving it in the metaverse right now.

Aside from providing BEDU with the space layout, MBRSC also provides the data required to create a metaverse that is as real as possible, Alzarouni said.

Job creation

Alzarouni said that in the metaverse, companies can scale up much faster and easier, which could result in more jobs being created.

There will be new jobs to fill in the metaverse five to 10 years from now, he said.

“One of the jobs that I foresee being created in the future is a combination of an architect with the programming skills that exist in the metaverse,” he said.

As a result, he added, a new skill set could be created by introducing a curriculum in universities where students would graduate with an architect mindset and software programming skills to be able to fulfill a role in the metaverse.

Societal integration

As a concept, the metaverse already exists in different verticals, and games like Roblox and Fortnite have already briefly incorporated it into society, the CEO said.

“The concept of digital twin exists in the manufacturing business, automobile business, and the real estate business, which is one aspect of how the metaverse could help,” he said.

However, he added that the world is in its early stages of integrating the metaverse into reality. “It will take a bit of time, depending on the adoption rates,” Alzarouni said. The implementation of the metaverse into society could take five to ten years, he continued.

BEDU’s main objective and strategy is to become the next unicorn in the Web3 sector, Alzarouni said.

“At the moment, we are all equal. Nobody can claim that they are ahead of the game, not Meta, not Microsoft, not any other metaverse project, and not even us,” he said.

In metaverse 2117’s vision, people will be able to work in the metaverse, go to school, and enjoy concerts, he said.
2117 timeline

The journey will begin in “2117” with a take-off from Earth, taking users through space for seven months until they land on Mars. It is estimated that the journey will begin this December, Alzarouni said.

The public will be able to participate in the metaverse starting in October and it will close at the beginning of December 2022.

Alzarouni said the sale would be open for two periods. The first sale, which will be private, will amount to 0.2117 ETH. In the second sale, which is for the public, the price will be 0.25 ETH, he added.

Web3 users with digital wallets will be able to connect their wallets and gain access to 2117 using their crypto, he said. “So, it’s as simple as any e-commerce experience that people have nowadays,” he added.

Upon BEDU’s release by the end of October, people will be able to access the 2117 metaverse via a link shared by the firm, he concluded.


Saudi coaching entity Eunoia uses AI to support employee well-being

Saudi coaching entity Eunoia uses AI to support employee well-being
Updated 24 September 2022

Saudi coaching entity Eunoia uses AI to support employee well-being

Saudi coaching entity Eunoia uses AI to support employee well-being
  • We’re looking at whether a company provides motivating environment for employees: Founder

RIYADH: Eunoia, a Riyadh-based coaching entity, has taken the lead in using artificial intelligence to support employee well-being in the marketplace.

“When we say well-being, we’re not necessarily just talking about their health, but we’re also talking about their mental health, we’re looking at whether a company provides a motivating environment for employees to become better versions of themselves,” Maha Taibah, founder of Eunoia, told Arab News on the sidelines of the second Global AI Summit in Riyadh.

The event was organized by the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority under the theme, “Artificial Intelligence for the Good of Humanity.”

Eunoia was established in 2018 to offer growth-centric coaching that transcends standard coaching methods on an individual and group basis.

Taibah believes that humans are always able to reinvent themselves in relation to emerging innovations.

“As humans, we always reinvent ourselves. Before the Internet, we thought that people were going to go out of jobs because the Internet was coming. I think we have the capacity to evolve as human beings and whatever will be consumed by AI, we will definitely top it with something else that we are capable of. The human brain is magical,” she said.

Taibah is committed to youth development, bringing together public and private sector organizations to help shape their future by preparing them for their roles in society through innovative methods and carefully designed programs and products.

According to Taibah, Saudi Arabia is very well positioned to become a global player in technology with a large percentage of the population below 30 and keen to engage in innovation and technology.

“We are a very young nation, Saudi Arabia is 70 percent under 30, and we adopt technology very quickly,” she remarked.

Taibah believes that AI can be incorporated in multiple business sectors and startups can maximize its benefits.

“The trick here is really to understand how AI can serve the sector that you are interested in, it is the future and the future is already here,” Taibah added.


Global IT services company Crayon to invest in Saudi Arabia’s AI sector

Global IT services company Crayon to  invest in Saudi Arabia’s AI sector
Updated 24 September 2022

Global IT services company Crayon to invest in Saudi Arabia’s AI sector

Global IT services company Crayon to  invest in Saudi Arabia’s AI sector

RIYADH: Norway-based Global IT services company Crayon is fully invested in the future of Saudi Arabia’s artificial intelligence sector as its CEO forecasts the industry will contribute to 12.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product by 2030.

During the second Global AI Summit held in Riyadh, Ziad Rizk, the CEO of Crayon Middle East and Africa, told Arab News that the Kingdom is an ideal location for the company to incubate its operations to meet the demand of the entire MEA region.

“Around $360 billion will be spent on AI across the Middle East and Africa. But specifically, when you look at the Kingdom, we believe that AI will represent around 12.4 percent of the total GDP by 2030,” Rizk told Arab News.

“Accordingly, this is where we are investing ahead of the curve, trying to lead and to support the Kingdom’s journey in that direction,” he added.

HIGHLIGHTS

• CEO of the company forecasts the industry will contribute to 12.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product by 2030.

• The Kingdom is an ideal location for the company to incubate its operations to meet the demand of the entire MEA region, he says.

• Crayon also announced the opening of its Regional Digital Transformation office in Riyadh during the event.

• The company, which helps customers understand software assets and utilize and reduce software costs, already has over 4,500 customers across the MEA region.

Rizk explained that the company will support the sector through multiple areas by leveraging its global expertise in the Kingdom, as well as establishing a local talent pool in collaboration with the government and universities.

“The third pillar is to work with the startup community and the scale-up companies that are really on the cusp of growing exponentially, and helping them branch out beyond the Kingdom, across the Middle East and Africa region,” he added. Crayon also announced the opening of its Regional Digital Transformation office in Riyadh during the event.

Founded in 2002, the company, which helps customers understand software assets and utilize and reduce software costs, already has over 4,500 customers across the MEA region.

Rizk said that Crayon’s existing customer base in Saudi Arabia consists of large businesses and entities ranging across sectors like oil, electricity and aviation.

Ziad Rizk, the CEO of Crayon Middle East and Africa. (AN Photo)

Lauding the Saudi market, Rizk stated that their customers in the Kingdom were high in expertise as well as agile in pursuing their ambitions. Rizk believes that startup companies will play a huge role in boosting the Kingdom’s AI sector and the company is planning to support them.

“The startup community is really good at identifying a key technical problem, and then putting a lot of focus on solving it, but these companies face challenges on the business side, and this is where we engage with them,” he said.

Crayon was awarded the global partner of Data & AI in 2019 by Microsoft as well as Partner of the Year for Saudi Arabia in 2021.

The company has also seen 180 percent growth year over year and Rizk is expecting this to continue for at least three years.


stc develops use cases to enhance digital health and road safety

stc develops use cases to enhance digital health and road safety
Updated 24 September 2022

stc develops use cases to enhance digital health and road safety

stc develops use cases to enhance digital health and road safety

RIYADH: The Saudi Telecom Co. has developed use cases to enhance digital health and road safety, a senior representative said.

Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the Global AI Summit in Riyadh, Saud Alsheraihi, stc’s product and solutions vice president, said that the use cases will help the company establish a foothold in the artificial intelligence industry.

One of the use cases was to train machines and algorithms to provide diagnoses and predictions on health. “We want to be an example and show examples of the potential that we can do on top of our infrastructure,” he said.

Another use case was road safety predictions, such as predicting what would happen if the speed of a road in Riyadh increased by a certain amount.

“That will help decision makers big time because before they increase the speed limits on that road, they can predict and know exactly what we should do and how we can do that,” Alsheraihi added.

stc, Alsheraihi explained, is embarking on more digital and AI-related projects as a part of its DARE strategy. DARE stands for: Digitize stc, accelerate core asset performance, reinvent customer experience at world-class standards, and expand aggressively scale and scope. stc established it in 2018 with the aim of becoming a digital leader in the world by providing innovative services. “We are here as an extension of our DARE strategy where we are expanding in scope and scale, and one of the areas where we see ourselves in is actually AI,” Alsheraihi said.

As artificial intelligence becomes a part of multiple technologies, stc sees the complementarity of 5G edge computing, cloud computing, cybersecurity, and other services it provides, Alsheraihi said.

stc’s financial and logistics sectors are benefiting from digitization by improving efficiency, increasing revenues, and improving safety and security in their operations, he added.

stc has also created a cybersecurity subsidiary called sirar by stc which offers a comprehensive range of cybersecurity products and services that help businesses manage digital risks effectively, achieve compliance with relevant laws and regulations, and enable a robust and secure digital transformation journey.

Alsheraihi said that sirar focuses mainly on the enterprise sector.


flynas named ‘Best Low-Cost Airline in the Middle East’ for fifth year in a row

flynas named ‘Best Low-Cost Airline in the Middle East’ for fifth year in a row
Updated 23 September 2022

flynas named ‘Best Low-Cost Airline in the Middle East’ for fifth year in a row

flynas named ‘Best Low-Cost Airline in the Middle East’ for fifth year in a row

RIYADH: Saudi air carrier flynas has been awarded the Skytrax Award for Best Low-Cost Airline in the Middle East for the fifth time in a row.

The gong, handed out in a forum in London on Sept. 23, is based on a multi-month evaluation that includes more than 100 countries in the largest survey of its kind to measure passengers’ satisfaction in the world each year.

Bander Almohanna, CEO of flynas, said the award reflected his company’s commitment to operational excellence and meeting the aspirations of its traveling guests, in addition to achieving its growth and expansion strategy — which included launching more than 16 new destinations in 2022.

“The crowning of flynas for the fifth year in a row as the Best Low-Cost Airline in the Middle East with the Skytrax Award in the most important global forum for the aviation industry confirms our leadership as a national air carrier that raises the name of the Kingdom high on its National Day, and achieves the goals of Saudi Vision 2030 and the Strategy for the Civil Aviation Sector in KSA,” he said.

Flynas travels to more than 70 domestic and international destinations, and currently operates 38 aircraft — with plans to increase that to 52 by the end of 2023.

Almohanna added: “In addition, flynas Board of Directors approved to increase the purchase order for new aircraft to 250 aircraft, in an effort to participate effectively in achieving the Strategy for the Civil Aviation Sector in KSA, which aims to reach 300 million passengers and connect the Kingdom with 250 international destinations by 2030.”