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MAKKAH: Agriculture is the oldest and most adaptable industry in the world, and some of the earliest cultivation techniques are still widely used. But as nations face future challenges, authorities are turning to more modern concepts and ideas to ensure their citizens are fed.

Saudi Arabia, for example, is exploring the use of vertical agriculture as one of the innovative solutions to ensure that enough crops are grown to keep pace with growing demand. The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture has allocated 100 million RS ($ 27 million) to develop and localize vertical farming technologies.

As the name suggests, vertical farming is an agricultural process in which crops are grown in layers stacked vertically rather than horizontally distributed in traditional rows across the fields. This approach requires much less space and results in higher crop yields per square foot of land used.

Vertical farms are mostly located indoors, in structures such as warehouses, where the environmental conditions necessary for plants to grow to their full potential can be carefully controlled.

In Saudi Arabia, the National Research and Development Center for Sustainable Agriculture (Estidamah) plans to form global partnerships with pioneers in this field and introduce vertical farming facilities to localize this modern farming technique.

“Besides being a source of fresh crops for city dwellers in particular, vertical farming is seen as a promising way to provide crops to keep pace with the ever-increasing population of the Earth, which is expected to exceed 9 billion people. by 2050, ”Abdulrahman Abdullah Al-Soqeer, Qasim University faculty member and Estidamah board member, told Arab News.

“The importance of vertical agriculture lies in the small space it requires, especially in large cities that experience large waves of migration; two in three people are expected to live in urban areas over the next few decades.

“A key benefit of vertical farming is the provision of a variety of agricultural products, especially leafy vegetables and strawberries, in small areas and with less water and in an environmentally friendly manner. . Some crops can be produced in locations close to consumers, reducing the need to transport the produce by traditional means that increase pollutants in cities.

Besides being a source of fresh crops for city dwellers in particular, vertical farming is seen as a promising way to provide crops to keep pace with the ever-increasing population of the Earth, which is expected to exceed nine billion people by 2050

Abdulrahman Abdullah Al-Soqeer, Qasim University faculty member and Estidamah board member

“The global vertical farming market is growing rapidly, especially in some densely populated developed countries. “

Faleh Al-Juhani, an expert in vertical farming, told Arab News: “The aim of vertical farming is to obtain as much food as possible and to expand the variety of crops by creating exceptional climatic conditions through at which we can increase the production rates per square meter. , as long as the right conditions are available in terms of lighting, durability, growth and design.

He explained that vertical farming takes place in a large building. A combination of artificial and natural light is used to achieve the necessary levels of photosynthesis, he added, and aerobic or hydroponic methods and the organic matter of some plants are used to grow the crops.

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This modern farming technique, in which crops are grown indoors in vertically stacked layers, could prove vital in efforts to feed growing urban populations.

Vertical farming helps achieve sustainability, Al-Juhani said, by reducing some of the costs involved in traditional farming and saving more than 90 percent of the water used.

He echoed Al-Soqeer’s observations on the expected growth of urban populations. With around 80 percent of the world’s population expected to live in urban areas by 2050, Al-Juhani said the demand for food in these places will increase and the efficient use of vertical agriculture will be an important tool. to meet this challenge.

It allows the production of bountiful crops throughout the year, which is especially important, he added, because in Saudi Arabia, as in other countries, many traditional crops are affected by the cold, causing supply shortages that can lead to price increases. which can be difficult to control.

Al-Juhani said that in addition to specialized facilities, vertical farming could be adopted in homes, on rooftops and on balconies.

“It’s an easy and enjoyable method, despite our deep belief that nothing can match the efficiency and quality of the soil,” he said. “This is why many countries around the world have resorted to radical and crucial solutions and have succeeded in this regard.”

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