Saudi Arabia’s PIF signs deal with AeroFarms to establish ‘indoor vertical farms’

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Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) has signed a deal with American company AeroFarms to establish a company headquartered in Riyadh and build “indoor vertical farms” in the Kingdom and across the Middle East and North Africa, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Wednesday.

The deal aims to make the best use of natural resources via adopting “indoor vertical farming” techniques that grow more food in less space and use 95 percent less water than traditional farming.

“The partnership is expected to provide high-quality local crops all year round by using AeroFarms’ smart farming technology,” SPA said, adding that AeroFarms will establish and operate “several farms in the region during the next few years.”

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The annual production of the first farm in the Kingdom is estimated at 1.1 million kilograms of crops, representing the largest amount produced through this technology in the MENA region, SPA said.

Majed al-Assaf, head of consumer goods and retail at the PIF’s MENA investments division, said the deal with AeroFarms aims to increase reliance on high-quality local crops that will be produced using sustainable means using the most modern techniques.

“The PIF aims via the deal to strengthen the growth of the agriculture and food sector,” SPA quoted al-Assaf as saying.

David Rosenberg, the co-founder and CEO of AeroFarms, said the company’s goal is to grow the best crops to help find solutions to the agricultural challenges the world faces.

He added that the company is “extremely excited” about its partnership with the PIF to establish the first vertical farm in the Kingdom especially amid the challenges which the agriculture sector faces such as the limited fresh water and arable land.

Middle Eastern countries import up to 90 percent of their food, according to a 2021 Alpen Capital GCC Food Industry report. The figure includes economic powerhouses Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

In 2021, the Kingdom’s Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture allocated $26.5 million (SAR 100 million) to develop and localize vertical farming technologies.

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