Saudi Arabia is using soilless farming to promote sustainable agriculture in dry conditions

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Amid water scarcity and rising temperatures across the world, Saudi Arabia has adopted innovative urban methods to promote sustainable agriculture and food security.

These methods include the adoption of soilless or vertical farming techniques to meet the needs of a changing demographic.

Soilless farming also known as hydroponics involves growing plants without the use of soil. Through this method, nutrients are delivered to the roots of the plant through water. Drip or mist irrigation techniques are also used under the soilless farming method to control the use of water and prevent waste.

The National Research and Development Center for Sustainable Agriculture, or Estidamah, a standalone legal not-for-profit research centre based in Saudi Arabia is one company using vertical farming methods.

Their efforts have been boosted by the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture which set aside SR100 million ($27 million) to promote vegetables and strawberry farming by Estidamah.

In 2021, strawberries produced in a greenhouse in Riyadh using these farming methods generated greater yields compared to that of local farmers.

The Wadi Bin Hashbal mega farm at Asir in the southwest of Saudi Arabia also uses treated water to irrigate crops.

Estidimah Saudi Arabia high yield tomatoes

“This farm is the largest sustainable research demonstration or experimental farm in the world, with an area exceeding 3.2 million square meters, as is recognized by the Guinness World Records,” Ahmed Al-Mujthal, director-general of the Ministry of Environment and Water’s Asir branch, told Arab News.

The treated water is divided into municipal and industrial wastewater and is purified, removing large particles, oils, aerobic bacteria and other pollutants during different treatment phases.

The water is then transported into four main treated plants which are used for irrigating about 16,000 trees and 2,400 non-fruiting local trees.

These methods are a game changer for the agricultural sector in one of the world’s hottest countries.

According to the World Economic Forum, soilless farming saves about 98% of water compared to traditional farming. The water-treated irrigation system also promotes quality production of crops while preserving water.

Saudi Arabia has made a name for itself through the use of these methods which limit environmental harm caused by pesticides, prevent water wastage, as well as encourage year-round crop production.

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