quotes A food industry revolution is transforming Saudi Arabia into a sustainability leader

09 November 2022
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Updated 09 November 2022

A food industry revolution is transforming Saudi Arabia into a sustainability leader

Necessity is the mother of invention, as the ancient proverb runs. The arid landscapes of Saudi Arabia provide ample evidence of its truth, as the nation steps up successfully in numerous innovative ways to meet the tough challenge of feeding its burgeoning population.

This campaign is not only about producing more food. At its heart is a transformative drive for sustainability in all aspects of food production to conserve and recycle valuable resources, eliminate waste and reduce carbon emissions, as well as other forms of pollution. Without this relentless focus on sustainable practices, the Kingdom’s food industry would simply be unable to meet its ambitions to provide growing amounts of nutrition at affordable prices for the long term. The increasing pressure on our water, land and other natural resources requires us to act more imaginatively and urgently than many other countries.

Sponsored by Tanmiah Food Company, the UN in Saudi Arabia recently celebrated its 77th anniversary of the signing of the UN Charter, highlighting the push for collaboratively partnering to support sustainable development goals in all countries.

With Saudi Arabia importing about 80 percent of its food, we are fortunate that the Saudi government has for many years promoted both food security and sustainability to increase the quantity as well as quality of local produce. These concepts are core elements of the Vision 2030 development program. Examples include a target of 80 percent self-sufficiency in poultry as soon as 2025, up from the 68 percent already achieved this year and the 45 percent seen as recently as 2016.

New investments in the poultry sector, with an emphasis on advanced technologies, will total SR17 billion ($4.5 billion) in the next three years, according to the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture. It comes alongside the unveiling of increased support for domestic animal breeders and other food producers in June this year. The ministry announced three agreements in September with local and international companies to use artificial intelligence as well as new technologies to achieve sustainable output, and reduce carbon emissions. These include “smart farms” with calibrated lighting, big data analysis and remote sensing use, as well as solutions to detect pests and diseases. Alongside purely environmental considerations, the Saudi government also promotes social benefits that are integral to a holistic understanding and implementation of sustainability, including providing various employment opportunities and a range of community support measures.

With these and other forward-looking developments, Saudi Arabia is playing a prominent role in global efforts to radically improve food sustainability. The challenge is immense, as the food sector accounts for 30 percent of the world’s energy consumption and 22 percent of greenhouse emissions, with agriculture irrigation accounting for 70 percent of global water use worldwide. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization accurately sums up global sustainability priorities as increasing productivity and employment, protecting and enhancing natural resources, enhancing the resilience of communities and ecosystems, and adapting governance to new challenges.

As a market leader in producing and supplying poultry and other meat products, Tanmiah Food Company is proud to be in the vanguard of the sustainability transformation in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. We are increasingly aligning our poultry and other facilities, and activities with the highest global environmental as well as social standards, while energetically pursuing our own research and innovation to create solutions tailored to the dynamic Saudi market. Our partnership with King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology is designed to develop new techniques and processes that will ultimately support our entire poultry supply chain, and reinforce innovative as well as sustainable food production.

Under the patronage of the minister of environment, water and agriculture, our $1 million Omnipreneurship award attracts outstanding talent from around the world as we seek breakthrough ideas for turning our business into an entirely sustainable ecosystem.

This year’s award was won by Polymeron, a startup from an accelerator program at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, for its groundbreaking work on converting poultry waste into commercially valuable materials as well as generating renewable energy. Next year’s Omnipreneurship award will focus on enabling us to transition from imported corn and soy-based feeds to locally produced sustainable feed materials.

One of our most visible sustainability projects is at Shaqra, where we have greened a large expanse of the desert by planting more than 300,000 trees, on the way to a total of 1 million by 2025. Wastewater flows from our nearby primary processing facility to irrigate the roots, while solid waste serves as fertilizer for the growing forest. In a practical example of the circular use of resources, the trees provide bedding for our chicks.

The increasing focus on sustainability by Tanmiah and other Saudi companies is in line with the growing demands of investors. Indeed, we need to do even more. That is why Tanmiah has set several targets, such as becoming the first carbon-neutral poultry company in the Kingdom, and why the company continues to recycle water and solid waste. According to the Vice Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Eng. Mansour Al-Mushaiti, the Kingdom is aiming to recycle 94 percent of waste in 2035, which is expected to contribute to an annual income of SR120 billion, improving quality of life and supporting sustainable economic development.

According to Bloomberg, the value of sustainable global assets under management is on course to rise above $50 trillion by 2025, a third of the total. Research by Blackrock found that in 2020, more than 80 percent of sustainable investment funds outperformed their non-sustainable peers.

At Tanmiah, our strategic landmark partnership announced this year with US-based Tyson Foods, a global leader in protein, is set to give us access to world-class techniques and advanced technologies to further support our focus on sustainable food production. From sourcing materials to production and distribution, our expertise and ideas are aligned with Tyson to make Tanmiah a true sustainability champion.

We look forward to continuing to play a pioneering role in Saudi Arabia’s transformational journey toward becoming a sustainable economy, including the Kingdom’s Green Initiative, which represents more than SR700 billion in investments to accelerate the growth of the green economy.

  • Ahmed Osilan is an executive board member & managing director of Tanmiah Food Company.