RIYADH: The Middle East region could lead an agricultural revolution by pioneering a type of precision fermentation which could convert energy into food, according to the latest research carried out by Strategy& Middle East.
In its report, the global management consulting firm noted that the world population is projected to hit 9.7 billion by 2050 – all of who require sustainable food sources, and the Middle East, especially the Gulf Cooperation Council countries could play a crucial role in formulating agricultural methods by ensuring sustainability.
“The Middle East, especially the GCC, can answer this challenge, and produce healthy, low emissions foods,” said Yahya Anouti, partner at Strategy& Middle East.
“The GCC is uniquely positioned for success in pursuing energy-to-food because it possesses the world’s lowest levelized cost of renewables," he said, adding that energy makes up 40 to 60 percent of the expense of producing energy-to-food proteins.
Assuming GCC producers incur non-energy-related costs similar to the global average, the ESG leader pointed out that their energy-to-food proteins will be significantly cheaper than those created anywhere else in the world.
The report further noted that the energy-to-food process will have a minimal impact on the environment, requiring very little land or water compared with traditional agriculture, such as animal- and plant-based proteins.
“If GCC countries are successful in pioneering energy-to-food, using renewable energy to feed the world could become a prestige project that highlights the region’s technological prowess and its ability to take the lead in sustainability. It would also promote regional economic diversification,” said Shihab Elborai, partner with Strategy& and the co-leader of the firm’s sustainability platform.
Citing statistics from Credit Suisse, the report noted that the market for alternative proteins is attracting considerable investment and could be worth $1.4 trillion globally by 2050.
Strategy& Middle East emphasized that GCC countries should act in six areas; research and development, investment in infrastructure, value chain development, talent, regulation and policy, and consumer awareness to capitalize this potential agricultural revolution.
“Food is emotive and highly regulated, which makes consumer acceptance vital. Building scale quickly is critical to meeting demand and reducing the cost per kilogram of proteins produced by precision fermentation,” said Samer Al Chikhani, principal with Strategy& Middle East.