Cutting-edge agriculture solutions to save water, cut inputs and grow profits are needed to give investors the confidence to invest in Saudi Arabia, claims a leading agricultural engineer.
And Cesar Sakr, of leading agricultural supplier ARTAT Trading Company in Riyadh, warns that investment will be critical to the Kingdom achieving its 2030 food security ambitions.
With a rapidly growing population and economy, Saudi Arabia has bold ambitions to unlock thousands of acres of land for food production while also creating huge green spaces and developments.
However, these ambitions face major challenges, particularly when it comes to access to water. Despite significant investment in desalination, wastewater and irrigation technologies, agriculture will remain the biggest consumer of water and new cutting-edge solutions are needed.
Crop production specialist Cesar says: “Saudi Arabia is one of the most water stressed nations on earth, and we need to find ways to maximise crop production while minimising water use and crop inputs.
“We need significant investment to achieve our food security ambitions. To secure that investment, we will need new solutions for farmers and growers to help them maximise crop outputs, while minimising inputs so they can return a profit and give investors confidence in agriculture.”
ARTAT Trading Company is a leading agricultural supplier in the animal production domain but has created a new division focussed on crop production, aligning itself with the Kingdom’s ambitions for self-sufficiency in food production. The business has been developing a network across the Kingdom with Engage Crop Solutions over the past six months.
One of the first new technologies it is bringing to Saudi Arabia is a transformational water technology called Aqualatus that allows growers to cut their water use by half while still maintaining crop quality.
Developed by UK-based Engage Crop Solutions, Aqualatus has proved in trials across the Middle East and other arid regions that growers can cut water use and inputs by up to 50% but still maintain or even improve crop yields.
Cesar explains: “Water is a critical issue. Many growers have stopped growing on their land because they simply don’t have enough water. Some may have 10 hectares of land but can only grow on five hectares because of the water they have available to them.
“We need to find ways to unlock more land to provide the Kingdom with food security and we are convinced Aqualatus and other technologies like it will the key to transforming Saudi Arabian agriculture, creating more growing opportunities.
“By using Aqualatus, we can unlock more land for agriculture without using any more water and we can use reduced water inputs across the board, growing profits and providing investors with confidence. Crucially, the benefits of Aqualatus also mean growers can extend their growing season, giving them more time to secure a return on the investment.”
Aqualatus is applied to irrigation systems and is a sophisticated blend of liquid polymers which contain billions of microscopic structures that adhere to soil particles and slow the gravitational movement of water and promotes lateral movement, thereby increasing the moisture-holding capacity of the soil. Aqualatus is a completely environmentally-friendly product and is proven not to harm soil, the bacteria or the environment in any way.
Surface runoff and evaporation are almost completely eradicated and gravitational movement is dramatically slowed. Reducing this natural water loss allows for irrigation volumes to be much lower and timings to be much more efficient as the soil is more retentive.
Managing Director of Engage Crop Solutions, Peter Blezard, says: “Water has been dubbed the new ‘blue gold’ in the Middle East because the crisis is so severe.
“We are thrilled to be working with ARTAT on this venture and are looking forward to opening up the Kingdom to the benefits of Aqualatus and helping to fulfil its food security ambitions.
“We have run trials around the globe for the past 10 years to develop Aqualatus and we believe it should be a key part of the solution, ensuring agriculture can dramatically cut the amount of water it needs and helping to ensure water remains available to everyone.
“By using Aqualatus, growers can confidently cut their irrigation cycles by half and still see exceptional results without any loss of crop development, yield and quality. The technology also ensures farmers and growers can make savings in fertiliser and energy costs too by the reduction in irrigation cycles and helping to improve the soil quality.
“Cesar feels that for Saudi Arabia, Aqualatus could be transformational in delivering water security while also ensuring food security through crop quality, cost savings and profit growth for the growers.”