| 13 April 2024, Saturday |

Saudi-US partnership to build vertical farms in MENA region

The Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced a joint venture agreement with AeroFarms, a US-based commercial market leader in vertical farming, to establish a company in Riyadh to build and operate indoor vertical farms in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.


The agreement seeks to optimize the utilization of natural resources, including water and agricultural lands, through the implementation of indoor vertical farming, with no need for arable land, resulting in significantly higher yields and using up to 95% less water compared to traditional field farming.


The partnership is expected to contribute to the provision of high-quality local crops throughout the year through AeroFarms’ smart farming technology, as it aims to establish and operate many farms in the region over the next few years.


The PIF expected that the first farm in Saudi Arabia would have an annual production capacity of 1.1 million kilograms of agricultural crops, which would make it the largest of its kind in the MENA region.


Promising sectors


The agreement comes in line with PIF’s strategy that focuses on developing and empowering promising sectors, including food and agriculture, as well as localizing new agricultural technologies and developing food industries, in partnership with the local private sector. The strategy aims to improve the trade balance and strengthen the Kingdom’s position as a leader in vertical farming in the region.


Majed AlAssaf, Head of Consumer Goods and Retail, MENA Investments Division at PIF, said: “The agreement with AeroFarms will lead to the establishment of indoor vertical farms in Saudi Arabia and the wider MENA region, increasing regional reliance on locally produced, high-quality crops grown in a sustainable way using the latest technologies. PIF is enabling the growth of the food and agriculture sector and localizing technology that can benefit private sector industry participants.”


For his part, Co-Founder and CEO of AeroFarms David Rosenberg noted that the company’s mission was to help solve “the greatest agriculture challenges and increase food resiliency around the world.”


He continued: “We are excited to partner with PIF to build our first large-scale commercial farm in Saudi Arabia, where the growing conditions are challenging with limited access to fresh water and arable land, and we envision building together smart indoor vertical farms throughout the broader MENA region.”


Hydrogen economy


Meanwhile, the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources announced the issuance of the first license in Oxagon for the NEOM Green Hydrogen Company (NGHC), a joint venture between NEOM, ACWA Power and Air Products.


This step falls within the Kingdom’s effort to deploy its low-cost hydrocarbons and its strategic location for low-cost renewables.


Once completed, NGHC will be the largest at-scale green hydrogen production company in the world based at Oxagon, home to advanced and clean industries within NEOM, with a next generation port and fully automated and integrated supply chain and logistics network.


Green ammonia


The NEOM Green Hydrogen plant is expected to begin green hydrogen production using 100% renewables in 2026. It will produce up to 1.2 million tons of green ammonia annually, or 600 tons of green hydrogen on a daily basis.


Green ammonia will be exported to global markets, to support the decarbonization of the heavy transport sector, with the aim to reduce carbon emissions.


Wind energy


The plant, which has been described as a multi-billion dollar project, will operate on about 4 gigawatts of wind and solar power, and will produce green hydrogen using 2.2 electrolysis technology.


The Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources and the Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technology Zones (MODON) had earlier signed an MoU with NEOM Industrial City Oxagon, for the implementation of the Future Factories Program, which aims to build a strong technical system that enables digital and sustainable transformation of the industrial sector in the country.

  • Asharq Al-Awsat