IoT revolutionizes Saudi agriculture toward sustainability and prosperity

IoT revolutionizes Saudi agriculture toward sustainability and prosperity
IoT-enabled farming technologies play a crucial role in improving productivity and sustainability through precision monitoring and management, resource efficiency, and remote management. (SPA)
Short Url
Updated 26 June 2024
Follow

IoT revolutionizes Saudi agriculture toward sustainability and prosperity

IoT revolutionizes Saudi agriculture toward sustainability and prosperity
  • Transformative approach promises to revolutionize traditional agricultural practices

RIYADH: In Saudi Arabia’s vast agricultural terrain, a transformative shift is occurring, driven by the adoption of advanced technologies.

Despite challenges such as water scarcity, inefficient practices, and climatic hardships, integrating Internet of Things technologies in farming is bringing a sense of optimism.

This transformative approach promises to revolutionize traditional agricultural practices and offer a path toward a more resilient and prosperous future for Saudi farmers. 

In an interview with Arab News, economist and policy adviser Mahmoud Khairy said that improving productivity, resource efficiency, and sustainability in the farming sector are key factors driving the adoption of IoT applications in the Kingdom.

“These technologies enable farmers to monitor and manage their crops and livestock more effectively, leading to better yields and reduced costs,” he said.

Phil Webster, partner at the management consulting firm Arthur D. Little, told Arab News: “There has been significant uptake of these relatively nascent technologies compared to, say, five years ago.”

As the nation embraces IoT solutions, it embarks on a journey toward sustainable agriculture, where productivity, efficiency, and environmental stewardship converge to create a brighter future.

Transforming agricultural practices

The application of IoT in smart farming is revolutionizing traditional agricultural practices. Farmers can gather real-time data on various parameters crucial for crop growth by utilizing sensors, actuators, and connected devices. 

Soil moisture, temperature, humidity, livestock health, and crop growth data are collected and analyzed to make informed decisions. This data-driven approach enables farmers to optimize resource usage, improve crop yields, and minimize environmental impact.

Mishkat, a company specializing in sustainable and high-production farming, has highlighted its initiatives, such as vertical farming and impressive greenhouse facilities, which showcase the immense potential of IoT technologies in overcoming challenges.

The company aims to produce nutritious, authentic, and trusted food with minimal environmental impact, prioritizing sustainability, safety, and health.

“We want to be the leading experts in KSA on sustainable and high production farming techniques, delivering high- quality produce with maximum resource efficiency,” Mishkat says.

The firm’s unique fusion of vertical farming with greenhouse cultivation offers a sustainable solution to local pesticide-free and water-efficient production.

Nestled on the outskirts of Jeddah, Mishkat’s agricultural facility combines vertical farming with advanced greenhouse technology to offer a sustainable solution to local pesticide-free and water-efficient production.

This unique fusion of techniques presents a compelling vision for the future of agriculture in arid regions. Their facility includes a vertical farm where crops are grown in stacked layers.

This design, reminiscent of a multi-tiered tower, is more than just visually striking – it’s a smart solution to land scarcity. 

These technologies enable farmers to monitor and manage their crops and livestock more effectively, leading to better yields and reduced costs.

Mahmoud Khairy, economist and policy adviser

Complementing the vertical farm, Mishkat boasts two state-of-the-art greenhouses. These structures, armed with advanced climate control systems, provide an optimal environment for plant growth.

By modulating factors like temperature, humidity, and light, greenhouses ensure that the crops inside are shielded from the harsh climatic conditions typical of the Jeddah outskirts.

Mishkat’s headquarters is unique for several reasons: it is among the first commercial vertical farms in the Kingdom, offers rare greenhouse and vertical hybrid agricultural facilities, and is one of the few certified organically controlled environment farms globally.

In Riyadh, Bather Farm is also redefining urban farming with its cutting-edge vertical farming system.

By leveraging Agritecture Designer farm planning software and iFarm technology, Bather Farm optimizes crop production in an otherwise arid environment.

“At Bather Farm, we envision a greener and healthier Saudi Arabia, where agriculture gives to the people and planet more than it takes,” the firm says on its website.

This project underlines CEA’s potential to reinvent regional agriculture, paving the way toward food security and sustainability.

This melding of technology and agriculture underscores the potential for harmonizing urban living with sustainable farming practices.

E-farming boosting the economy

Economist and policy adviser Mahmoud Khairy emphasized the significance of adopting advanced agricultural solutions in Saudi Arabia.

Khairy highlighted that embracing IoT-enabled farming technologies and precision agriculture practices aligns with the nation’s broader economic and agricultural development objectives.

He added: “By embracing these technologies, the country aims to modernize its agricultural sector, create job opportunities, and reduce its dependency on food imports,” stressing that such advancements would bolster food security, diversify the economy, and minimize water usage in agriculture.

Moreover, Khairy pointed out that implementing data-driven approaches to optimize crop yields and resource efficiency could lead to several economic benefits.

By leveraging data analytics, farmers can make more informed decisions, resulting in increased productivity, higher revenues, and improved profitability. 

Partnerships and collaborations play a critical role in promoting the adoption and maintenance of digital technologies in agriculture.

Phil Webster, partner at Arthur D. Little

Khairy emphasized that compared to traditional methods, data-driven approaches offer a more precise and scientific way of managing agricultural operations. Therefore, they enhance productivity and resource efficiency while ensuring long-term economic viability and sustainability.

IoT-enabled farming technologies in Saudi Arabia’s agricultural sector play a crucial role in improving productivity and sustainability through precision monitoring and management, resource efficiency, and remote management, according to Khairy.

“These technologies, such as sensors and drones, provide real-time data on soil quality, crop health, and pest infestations, allowing farmers to make informed decisions on irrigation, fertilization, and pest control,” he explained.

Government support and collaboration

For IoT technologies to reach their full potential in Saudi agriculture, government support and collaboration are paramount.

Initiatives like the National Agricultural Development Co.’s AI solutions demonstrate the importance of leveraging technology for agricultural advancement.

By fostering collaboration among stakeholders and providing financial support, policymakers can facilitate the widespread adoption of IoT technologies.

Additionally, investment in research and development, infrastructure, and training programs is essential to equip farmers with the necessary skills and knowledge to embrace IoT solutions effectively.

Moreover, partnerships between government agencies, agricultural extension services, technology providers, and academic institutions can promote knowledge-sharing and innovation in the agricultural sector.

“Partnerships and collaborations play a critical role in promoting the adoption and maintenance of digital technologies in agriculture,” Arthur D. Little’s Webster emphasized.

He added: “The most important role of such collaborations is to ensure that there is good governance over the data that is collected at all parts of the food chain from farm to fork.” 

Webster explained that data governance is “clarity over how data – and any associated meta-data – is collected, in what form, and for use by whom (e.g., different parts of the agri-food supply chain, regulators, Government) and under what circumstances.”

He stressed the cruciality of such aspects in ensuring that business models involving the use and monetization of data work effectively.

Webster also called on farmers to take advantage of the Saudi government’s wide range of initiatives and programs to integrate digital technologies.

The General Authority for Statistics has recently launched the inventory survey of agricultural holdings in the Kingdom in order to provide essential data on plant and animal production, including cultivated areas and production quantities, as well as sales volumes, crop values, and livestock numbers at the regional level.

Commenting on the survey, Khairy said: “With this data, policymakers, researchers, and agricultural stakeholders can identify areas for improvement, pinpoint specific challenges faced by farmers, and tailor agriculture solutions to address the unique needs of different regions.”

As Saudi Arabia faces the challenges of water scarcity, climate change, and food security, embracing IoT technologies becomes imperative.

The integration of IoT in agriculture offers a pathway to overcome these challenges, enhance productivity, and promote sustainable farming practices.

Through collaboration, innovation, and government support, Saudi farmers can embark on a journey toward a more resilient and prosperous agricultural future.

“Owing to both demand and investment – as well as the increasing availability of IoT-enabled farming technologies – this future trajectory will no doubt continue,” Webster said.

He suggested that the nation could soon achieve self-sufficiency or become a net exporter, particularly in products like eggs.

Webster envisioned a revolution in agricultural supply chains, emphasizing a transition to alternative proteins with great potential in semi or fully-automated indoor farming, which promises heightened productivity and reduced production costs.

Khairy said that Saudi Arabia’s adoption of advanced farming technologies is “poised to make significant contributions to global food security and environmental conservation efforts.”

He added that through the incorporation of sustainable agricultural practices, farmers in the Kingdom can increase productivity while minimizing environmental impact.

“This not only ensures food security domestically but also allows Saudi Arabia to potentially become a key player in international food supply chains,” Khairy explained.


New SAMA platform Naqd to facilitate easier account access for agencies 

New SAMA platform Naqd to facilitate easier account access for agencies 
Updated 14 July 2024
Follow

New SAMA platform Naqd to facilitate easier account access for agencies 

New SAMA platform Naqd to facilitate easier account access for agencies 

RIYADH: A new digital platform will allow government agencies to access their accounts in the Saudi Central Bank easily and conveniently. 

The central bank, also known as SAMA, has announced the launch of Naqd, a platform for government banking services. The service is designed to provide government entities with easy and secure access to their accounts at the central bank and to conduct financial transactions through a trusted digital platform. 

The initiative is part of SAMA’s strategy to offer banking outlets to government entities and support digital transformation. 

The central bank is fostering digitalization across the spectrum with the launch of several initiatives. 

In May, SAMA announced the launch of a new undertaking — “View My Bank Accounts” — for individual bank account holders. The service enhances reliability and reduces the risk of suspicious transactions, unauthorized account use, and impersonation.  

The Naqd platform aims to digitize financial transaction services for government entities, providing a unified and secure platform. 

It facilitates round-the-clock access to account information, account management and real-time monitoring of transactions conducted from and to government accounts. 

The platform is intended to deliver electronic banking services that support government financial transactions, enhance user experience, and increase efficiency and productivity in financial dealings using the latest technologies.

Additionally, it aims to reduce the time required to execute government banking procedures. 


Saudi environment minister launches financial support program to propel fisheries sector

Saudi environment minister launches financial support program to propel fisheries sector
Updated 14 July 2024
Follow

Saudi environment minister launches financial support program to propel fisheries sector

Saudi environment minister launches financial support program to propel fisheries sector

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s fisheries sector is set to receive a boost thanks to a new direct financial support program launched by the Kingdom’s minister of environment, water and agriculture.

Abdulrahman Al-Fadhli will oversee the financial support for the Reef Saudi program, which aims to open new horizons for the development of the fisheries sector and stimulate the industry, according to a statement. 

The Sustainable Agricultural Rural Development Program, or Reef Saudi, seeks to improve the rural agricultural sector to raise the standard of living of small farmers and rural families, increase efficiency and productivity, and improve lifestyle and food security.

This move falls in line with the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, as the program is an important step toward achieving several strategic goals, including strengthening the nation’s local economy.  

It also aligns well with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture’s continuous efforts over the past years to boost the fisheries sector, including establishing a national program to protect fish stocks and the industry as a whole, the provision of concessional loans to assist small-scale fishermen with the purchase of boats, and initiatives to modernize ports in the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf.

Moreover, the program requires that fisherman wishing to obtain support must have a fishing license, in either the Saudi artisan category or Saudi sailor category. 

The fisherman should also not be an employee in the public or private sector, be no younger than 18 years old, and be based within the Kingdom during the period, in addition to the duration of each fishing trip being no less than six hours.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia highlighted its role in leading and unifying international efforts to develop the fisheries sector during its presidency of a special UN committee dedicated to the industry. 

This came during the conclusion of the 36th session of the body, which was held at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome and was chaired by the Kingdom’s permanent representative to the FAO, Mohammed Al-Ghamdi.

During the meeting, Saudi Arabia reviewed its most prominent efforts to promote and develop the fisheries sector and achieve its sustainability during its two-year presidency, the Saudi Press Agency reported at the time.


Closing Bell: Saudi main index rose to close at 11,881

Closing Bell: Saudi main index rose to close at 11,881
Updated 14 July 2024
Follow

Closing Bell: Saudi main index rose to close at 11,881

Closing Bell: Saudi main index rose to close at 11,881

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index rose on Sunday, gaining 89.14 points, or 0.76 percent, to close at 11,881.55.

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR6.36 billion ($1.69 billion) as 154 of the stocks advanced, while 68 retreated.  

On the other hand, the Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu slipped 79.18 points, or 0.31 percent, to close at 25,696.86. This comes as 34 of the listed stocks advanced while 36 retreated. 

Meanwhile, the MSCI Tadawul Index gained 15.65 points, or 1.06 percent, to close at 1 1,488.02.

The best-performing stock of the day was Miahona Co. The company’s share price surged 9.96 percent to SR37.00.

Other top performers include MBC Group Co. as well as Al Taiseer Group Talco Industrial Co.

The worst performer was Al-Rajhi Co. for Cooperative Insurance, whose share price dropped by 7.27 percent to SR209.20. 

Other worst performers were Saudi Advanced Industries Co. as well as Arabian Pipes Co.

On the announcements front, ADES Holding Co. has announced that it has amended its existing syndicated facility, securing an additional equivalent to $3 billion, with the majority of existing lenders participating along with new, leading local and regional financial institutions.

According to a Tadawul statement, the new upsized financing is divided into the equivalent of a $2.7 billion standby term tranche to finance the group’s expansion plans and an additional $300 million revolving credit facility tranche to be applied toward the general corporate purposes of the company.

While the financing duration of the standby term tranche is eight and a half years, with a final maturity in December 2032, that of the RCF tranche is eight years, with a final maturity in June 2032. 

The financing entities include Saudi Awwal Bank, Riyadh Bank, Al Rajhi Banking and Investment Corp., and Arab National Bank, as well as the Saudi National Bank, Alinma Bank, Banque Saudi Fransi, and Aljazira Bank. Arab Petroleum Investments Corp. and Commercial Bank of Dubai PSC are also included.

The bourse filing also revealed that the guarantees offered for the financing entail mortgages over offshore rigs, share mortgages or pledges over entities that hold onshore or offshore rigs as applicable, and security over the collection accounts and debt service accrual account. 

They also include assignment of receivables under client contracts, assignment of receivables under insurance contracts in respect of financed rigs as well as promissory notes.


Saudi Arabia and Thailand strengthen economic ties with new investment office in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia and Thailand strengthen economic ties with new investment office in Riyadh
Updated 14 July 2024
Follow

Saudi Arabia and Thailand strengthen economic ties with new investment office in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia and Thailand strengthen economic ties with new investment office in Riyadh

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is set to enhance private sector cooperation with Thailand as the Southeast Asian nation opens its first Board of Investment office in Riyadh, a top official announced. 

On the sidelines of a business forum in the Saudi capital, Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih highlighted that this marks Thailand’s inaugural office in the Middle East, encouraging stronger bonds and new investment opportunities in both countries. 

This came as the minister lauded the steady trade relations, that saw business soar to $8.8 billion in 2023, up from $7.5 billion following the nations’ restored ties in 2022. This represents nearly 22 percent of Thailand’s total trade with the Middle East, underscoring a flourishing economic partnership. 

 

 

Addressing the business delegation at the Saudi-Thailand Investment Forum, Al-Falih said: “Representative offices from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and your country will do a great deal of facilitating private sector to private sector cooperation and allowing us to reach the potential that I mentioned.”  

He added: “I believe it will continue to grow at double digits as it has been the last couple of years. In investment, we’ve also seen growth, although from very small numbers, with FDI (foreign direct investment) stock doubling since 2019 in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”  

The minister added that travel and tourism are returning to previous levels, with close to 200,000 tourists and visitors traveling from Saudi Arabia to Thailand. He also noted that over 30,000 Thai visitors had come to the Kingdom the previous year to experience Saudi Arabia. 

The Thailand BOI office will cover a total of 13 countries in the Middle East, including Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Turkiye, and the UAE. 

The Riyadh headquarters is Thailand BOI’s 17th overseas office, with two additional locations in China and Singapore set to be added soon.  

“We hope investors from Saudi Arabia and the Middle East will consider making Thailand an investment base to expand business in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and take advantage of Thailand’s membership in the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) agreement, the world’s largest free trade area,” said Narit Therdsteerasukdi, secretary-general of the Thailand BOI. 

He added: “We believe there is a strong potential for investment and cooperation in several key sectors, including agriculture, processed food, renewable energy, healthcare and medical services, as well as automotive, especially electric vehicles.” 

Additionally, Al-Falih explained that the Thailand BOI office will boost areas of cooperation between both countries in several areas. 

“Before I do that, let me assure you — and this is not just me, not our Ministry of Investment, not the government, but the entire Saudi Arabia — we are very bullish on Thailand and indeed very impressed with your achievements,” the minister said.  

He continued: “Your GDP (gross domestic product) per capita has tripled in 20 years, while your export structure has evolved significantly into increasingly sophisticated products in the same time frame.” 

Furthermore, the minister recognized Thailand as one of the founding members of ASEAN, a significant economic alliance that holds importance not only in Asia but globally. 

Due to Thailand’s strategic location and economic strength — the second-largest economy in ASEAN with a GDP exceeding half a trillion dollars — it is a crucial partner for Saudi Arabia.  

“Especially as you are bolstered by ASEAN free trade agreements with most major economies, as you outlined to me this morning. These agreements include big economies in East Asia, as well as South Asian economies. Of course, anchored by India,” Al-Faih said. 

The minister stressed common parallels between the two countries, noting they share a “great deal of complementarity.” Thailand has its National Strategy 2037, whereas Saudi Arabia has its Vision 2030. 

“Which naturally leads me to emphasize the energy sector, including its multifaceted branches downstream: biofuels, biochemicals and CCUS (carbon capture utilization and storage), hydrogen, and renewables,” he said. 

Al-Falih added: “This is obviously an area where we share common ambitions, and the Kingdom has unique capability, creating numerous investment opportunities for both countries in terms of supply chain products as well as project development.” 

Saudi Arabia’s demand for agricultural and food processing products is expected to reach over $130 billion by 2030, with a compound annual growth rate of 7.5 percent.  

Meanwhile, Thailand’s agricultural and food processing sectors were robust in 2022, with exports totaling $45 billion. 

“This presents a huge area of complementary that would boost trade and investment as well as enhance food security in both nations,” Al-Falih underscored. 

Moreover, during the event’s opening speech, Thailand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maris Sangiampongsa, underscored the robust private sector collaboration between both countries, noting the success of the International Mega Fair organized by the Thai Chamber of Commerce in Saudi Arabia. 

This event featured over 30 Thai businesses showcasing 1,000 products from 200 brands, significantly boosting Thailand’s presence in Saudi Arabia. 

Looking ahead, Sangiampongsa announced the upcoming International Mega Fair 2024 in Riyadh, scheduled for November. This event aims to promote trade across diverse sectors, such as construction materials, hospitality, and defense technology. 

The minister expressed confidence in Thai investment representatives’ readiness to strengthen cooperation with their Saudi counterparts, building on the momentum of past successes.  

“As both our nations are located strategically at the crossroads of continents, we recognize that connectivity and efficiency are part and parcel of any feasible development strategy,” Sangiampongsa stated. 

He continued: “That is why, as part of our plan, Thailand launched our flagship Landbridge Project, which will connect the Gulf of Thailand with the Andaman Sea and the Indian Ocean. This bold initiative will reduce commuting time and costs by 15 percent.” 

The forum saw the signing of 11 memoranda of understanding between Thai and Saudi companies, covering cooperation in areas including energy, infrastructure, engineering, agriculture, and forestation. 

The event also featured bilateral meetings and discussions between private sector representatives, which reviewed developments in the investment environment in Saudi Arabia and Thailand. 

Additionally, Saudi Assistant Minister of Investment Ibrahim Al-Mubarak met with Therdsteerasukdi to discuss ways of cooperation and developments in the work of the Saudi-Thai Coordination Council. 

Further, a meeting was held between Saad Al-Khalb, CEO of Saudi EXIM, and Senior Executive Vice President of Export-Import Bank of Thailand Benjarong Suwankiri, discussing areas of cooperation aimed at enabling promising investment opportunities. 

In 2023, Thailand’s applications for investment promotion surged to a nine-year peak of 848.3 billion baht (approximately $24 billion), marking a 43 percent increase from the previous year. 

This growth was driven by significant foreign direct investments primarily in five key sectors outlined in the BOI’s new Investment Promotion Strategy: green industries, automotive (including electric vehicles), and semiconductors. Additionally, investments in advanced electronics, digital and creative industries, and international business centers contributed significantly.  

These sectors accounted for more than half of the total investment pledges. Leading sources of investment included China, Japan, Singapore, and the US. 


NWC initiates $150m in projects to enhance water services in Qassim region 

NWC initiates $150m in projects to enhance water services in Qassim region 
Updated 14 July 2024
Follow

NWC initiates $150m in projects to enhance water services in Qassim region 

NWC initiates $150m in projects to enhance water services in Qassim region 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Qassim region is set to see improvements in water services, with the National Water Co. initiating 14 projects valued at over SR561 million ($150 million). 

The state-owned firm announced that its Northern Cluster has initiated the implementation of water and environmental projects across various parts of the region. These initiatives aim to enhance water and wastewater services, improve their quality, and meet the growing demand. 

Saudi Arabia ranks among the world’s largest water consumers. With limited natural resources, the country continues to rely on the construction of desalination facilities to meet its increasing water demands. The Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture has announced several investments in water projects scheduled for the coming years. 

These projects are part of its strategic goals to expand water and environmental services, meet growing demand, and enhance the quality of life and services for the population in line with the Kingdom's Vision 2030. 

The Public Investment Fund-owned company noted that the initiative includes seven projects worth about SR283 million. These include sewerage channels and networks totaling over 329,000 meters and the construction of a lifting station capable of handling 1,350 cubic meters per day. 

Additionally, the company outlined seven water projects valued at over SR278 million. These initiatives involve networks and pipelines spanning more than 833,000 meters and the establishment of a water distribution system for the Al-Mukharram and Umm Hazm well areas. 

On July 10, the company announced that its northern cluster had initiated 12 water and environmental projects across various parts of the Hail region, amounting to over SR531 million in total costs. 

Five of these projects, totaling about SR238 million, will focus on pipelines and networks spanning more than 226,000 meters, alongside the construction of a lifting station capable of handling over 3,900 m3 per day. 

Also, the NWC has commenced seven water projects aimed at supplying regional customers, involving the construction of reservoirs, water pipelines of various diameters, and water pumping stations, totaling more than SR293 million. 

The network lengths exceed 374,000 meters, complemented by 56 operational reservoirs with a combined capacity of 33,500 m3.  

The projects also include three pumping stations with a total capacity exceeding 53,600 m3 per day, along with multiple water tanker filling stations, as reported by the NWC.