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)
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Updated 26 June 2024
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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.


SAMA chief lauds global efforts to contain inflation

SAMA chief lauds global efforts to contain inflation
Updated 25 July 2024
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SAMA chief lauds global efforts to contain inflation

SAMA chief lauds global efforts to contain inflation

RIYADH: Saudi Central Bank governor praised the “well-calibrated” monetary policies adopted by global financial institutions to tackle inflation and bolster the resilience of the world economy amid diverse challenges.

Ayman Al-Sayari spoke at a session titled “Global Economic Outlook and Ongoing Challenges” during the third meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors of G20 held under the Brazilian presidency, according to statement issued on the apex bank’s X handle.

He presented a comprehensive perspective on global economic challenges and policies.

The top Saudi official stressed the importance of ensuring that the nominal growth rate exceeds the interest rate to mitigate risks to global growth in the near term. This principle advocates for sustaining economic expansion while managing debt dynamics effectively.

Al-Sayari highlighted significant medium-term risks confronting the global economy, including ongoing geopolitical conflicts and trade fragmentation. These factors contribute to uncertainty and potential volatility in the international economic landscape.

Regarding energy transition efforts, he acknowledged the global scale-up of renewable energy usage but expressed concern over increased fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions in 2023. Al-Sayari cautioned against rushed actions and underscored the need for a balanced approach toward achieving sustainability goals without compromising economic stability.

“We are all for reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” the SAMA chief said.

Al-Sayari identified rising income inequality as a critical issue. He underscored the importance of implementing targeted social benefits and well-designed labor market policies to bridge this gap.


Saudi airline flynas to buy 160 Airbus planes

Saudi airline flynas to buy 160 Airbus planes
Updated 25 July 2024
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Saudi airline flynas to buy 160 Airbus planes

Saudi airline flynas to buy 160 Airbus planes
  • Deal includes order of 30 wide-body A330neo aircraft and 130 narrow-body A320 family aircraft
  • Head of flynas, Bander Al-Mohanna, said agreement ‘reinforces our determination to establish flynas as a leading global low-cost carrier’

RIYADH: Saudi low-cost airline flynas has signed a deal to purchase 160 Airbus aircraft, doubling the volume of its orders to 280 planes. 

The “landmark agreement,” signed at the UK’s Farnborough International Airshow, includes an order of 30 wide-body A330neo aircraft and 130 narrow-body A320 family aircraft, the carrier said in a statement.

This falls in line with the Saudi Vision 2030 aimed at transforming the aviation sector and supporting flynas’ ambitious expansion under the slogan “We connect the world to the Kingdom.” It also cements the carrier’s status as one of the top four low-cost airlines worldwide.

The deal also aligns well with the Kingdom’s aviation goals, including tripling annual passengers to 330 million, expanding connectivity to over 250 destinations, and boosting air freight capacity to 4.5 million tons of cargo per annum by 2030.

“I congratulate flynas on this significant agreement, which reflects the rapid development and transformation of Saudi Arabia’s aviation sector under Vision 2030,” President of the General Authority of Civil Aviation Abdulaziz Al-Duailej said. 

“This deal is pivotal for achieving the National Civil Aviation Strategy’s goal to connect the Kingdom with over 250 international destinations and increase passenger traffic to 330 million annually by 2030,” he added, also describing the growth and expansion of flynas as “truly remarkable.”

Bander Al-Mohanna, CEO and managing director of flynas, said: “This agreement to purchase 160 Airbus aircraft reinforces our determination to establish flynas as a leading global low-cost carrier.”

He added that this is his firm’s first order for the wide-body A330neo with Airbus, with deliveries starting in 2027.

“By doubling our order volume to 280 Airbus aircraft, we ensure sustainable growth across our network of regional and international routes, spanning short, medium, and long-haul flights,” said the CEO, explaining that that this will enable the carrier to explore new long-haul markets and offer more seat capacity, with diverse and innovative products to their passengers.

Airbus CEO of Commercial Aircraft Christian Scherer described thee deal as “a significant milestone” for both A320neo and A330-900 aircraft.

“The A330neo will allow flynas to further grow into widebody markets by building on the A320, benefiting from Airbus’ unique commonality,” Scherer said. 

“Both aircraft types offer flynas the perfect versatility and economics to expand into new markets while offering their passengers the latest cabin experience and comfort,” he added. “We look forward to continuing our successful collaboration with flynas as they embark on this exciting new chapter.”

Earlier this month, flynas received its 53rd A320neo aircraft out of an order of 120 from Airbus as part of its strategic expansion plan. 

The next-generation model airplane touched down at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh at the time, further consolidating the company’s position as the leading low-cost airline in the Middle East and one of the top four low-cost airlines globally, according to UK-based consultancy firm Skytrax.


New contractors database announced to help deliver Saudi Vision 2030 projects

New contractors database announced to help deliver Saudi Vision 2030 projects
Updated 25 July 2024
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New contractors database announced to help deliver Saudi Vision 2030 projects

New contractors database announced to help deliver Saudi Vision 2030 projects
  • Initiative seeks to provide opportunities for contractors to implement projects in their specializations to raise their quality
  • Kingdom’s construction market has become a leader in the Middle East and North Africa

RIYADH: A database rating contractors in the Saudi construction industry is part of a new national strategy designed to help the Kingdom deliver its SR1.2 trillion ($319 billion) Vision 2030 projects.

The new initiative, launched by the Saudi Contractors Authority, seeks to provide opportunities for contractors to implement projects in their specializations to raise their quality. 

This falls in line with the authority’s mission to organize the industry by setting and executing high-quality organizational standards, encouraging innovation, developing skills, improving communication in the industry and achieving economic sustainability.

During a speech at a ceremony reviewing the achievements of the SCA over the past three years, the authority’s chairman said he wanted to prepare and equip a strong contracting sector that will be an executive arm for the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 projects.

Al-Abdulqader explained that the authority raised the number of contractors during the past three years by 400 percent, bringing the registered number to more than 18,000, including 1,200 international contractors.

The SCA has also signed over 10 agreements and memorandums of understanding with major global contracting sectors, in addition to participating in more than 50 government committees. 

In 2023, the National Housing Co. and SCA signed an MoU during the Future Projects Forum in Riyadh to develop a platform aimed at enhancing cooperation, ensuring the development of both entities, and improving the sector’s efficiency. 

The SCA, a semi-governmental organization, addresses the challenges of the contracting sector and fosters a more attractive and efficient environment. 

It also led the contracting sector in 57 countries by winning the presidency of the Islamic Contractors Union and establishing the Kingdom as its headquarters. 

The Saudi contractor industry is thriving, driven by significant investments in diverse sectors and ambitious projects under the Vision 2030 initiative, creating numerous opportunities for local and international contractors. 

This comes as the Kingdom’s construction market has become a leader in the Middle East and North Africa, with an estimated value of $70.33 billion in 2024, projected to reach $91.36 billion by 2029, according to the US International Trade Administration.  

The sector is categorized into residential, commercial, and industrial, as well as infrastructure, transportation, and energy and utility construction, presenting a sizable market for contractors seeking opportunities. 


Closing Bell: Saudi main index ends the week in red

Closing Bell: Saudi main index ends the week in red
Updated 25 July 2024
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Closing Bell: Saudi main index ends the week in red

Closing Bell: Saudi main index ends the week in red
  • Total trading turnover of the benchmark index was $1.69 billion
  • Best-performing stock of the day was Retal Urban Development Co.

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index dipped on Thursday, losing 75 points, or 0.62 percent, to close at 12,026.21. 

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR6.35 billion ($1.69 billion) as 54 stocks advanced, while 170 retreated.   

Similarly, the MSCI Tadawul Index decreased by 10.76 points, or 0.71 percent, to close at 1,502.13.

However, the Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu increased by 82.88 points or 0.31 percent, to close at 26,420.01. This comes as 28 stocks advanced while as many as 27 retreated.

The best-performing stock of the day was Retal Urban Development Co. The company’s share price surged by 7.10 percent to SR12.98.

Other top performers included Saudi Real Estate Co. and Electrical Industries Co., whose share prices soared by 4.94 percent and 4.53 percent, to stand at SR23.38 and SR6.92 respectively.

Tanmiah Food Co. and Al-Rajhi Co. for Cooperative Insurance also performed well.

The worst performer was Miahona Co., whose share price dropped by 9.60 percent to SR36.25.

Al Sagr Cooperative Insurance Co. as well as Saudi Manpower Solutions Co., did not perform well as their share prices dropped by 5.92 percent and 5.47 percent to stand at SR20.34 and SR10.02, respectively.

Profits of Zain Saudi Arabia fell to SR105 million, an 8 percent decrease during the second quarter of 2024, compared to profits of SR114 million during the same period last year, according to Al Ekhbariya.

The company attributed the decline to an increase in operating expenses by SR38 million, a rise in expected credit loss expenses by SR33 million, and an increase in financing costs by SR20 million.

The National Company for Glass Industries announced its interim financial results for the first six months of 2024, with revenues dipping by 13.1 percent to reach SR34.2 million. The company’s net profit, however, surged by 6.5 percent, reaching SR26.7 million.

It attributed the decrease to a lower production quantity, which resulted from line maintenance activities and installation of new machines to improve manufacturing quality.

Balady Poultry Co. also announced its preliminary financial results for the same period, with revenues amounting to SR449.6 million, marking a 30.4 percent surge compared to the previous year due to an increase in average daily production.

The company recorded an increase of SR71.9 million in net profit during the current half compared to SR40.3 million during the same half of the previous year, with an increase of 78.6 percent due to a rise in the average daily production.


NEOM hits milestone with completion of underground parking, light rail systems

NEOM hits milestone with completion of underground parking, light rail systems
Updated 25 July 2024
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NEOM hits milestone with completion of underground parking, light rail systems

NEOM hits milestone with completion of underground parking, light rail systems
  • The underground parking and light rail are key elements of NEOM’s advanced sustainable transportation plan
  • NEOM said this accomplishment supports its goal of building a city with zero carbon emissions

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s $500 billion megacity NEOM has completed the construction phases of its underground parking and light rail systems, marking a milestone in its ambitious zero-carbon initiative.

Assisted by 10 high-capacity rotary drilling rigs from Chinese construction manufacturing company XCMG Machinery, the world’s largest integrated development project completed three piles per day per drilling rig, according to a press release.

The underground parking and light rail are key elements of NEOM’s advanced sustainable transportation plan. This phase was accelerated by the efficiency of XCMG’s rotary drilling rigs, which handled deep foundation work despite challenging sandy geologies.

Led by the Public Investment Fund, the project will be a futuristic region in northwest Saudi Arabia powered entirely by renewable energy.

NEOM is home to The Line, Oxagon, Trojena, and Sindalah. It prioritizes people and nature, establishing a new model for sustainable living, working, and prospering.

The statement added that this phase was expedited due to the efficiency of XCMG’s rotary drilling rigs, which successfully managed deep foundation work even in difficult desert terrains.

The release noted that the XR600E is the largest-tonnage drilling rig deployed in the construction of NEOM city and the largest model exported from China.

Despite arriving a month later than other machinery, these rigs completed their tasks two weeks ahead of schedule, demonstrating reliability and superior performance in speed and efficiency.

In its statement, NEOM commented that this accomplishment supports its goal of building a city with zero carbon emissions and sustainable energy use.

Over 140,000 construction workers have been engaged on-site since its launch in 2017, and earlier in July it was announced the various projects underconstruction are set to receive cement worth SR104 million ($27.7 million) thanks to a partnership between Saudi Arabia’s Al Jouf Cement Co. and Italy’s Webuild SpA.

Other recent announcements from NEOM include a new marina and community on the Gulf of Aqaba called Jaumur.

The destination will be an exclusive residential community planned around a marina promenade for more than 6,000 residents, and will include 500 marina apartments and around 700 luxury villas.

Earlier this month, NEOM and American hospitality firm Equinox Hotels revealed plans to open a resort in the recently unveiled Magna development, on the coast of the Gulf of Aqaba.

The luxury destination will feature 12 locations along 120 kilometers of coastline, and will include 15 hotels, 1,600 rooms, and over 2,500 residences.