One Step Beyond – When Smart and Sustainability Unite
By Michael Slage, Ventures Director at The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC)
Just a two hours’ drive from The Red Sea Project, organic farms are thriving. Most of these locally run businesses are growing edible crops such as citrus fruits, dates, mangoes, guava, figs, olives and moringa. The farmers also cultivate herbs such as rosemary and henna. Currently, all these products are used by extended family networks or sold locally, but there is potential for these farms to expand their production capacity.
When employees and guests alike arrive at The Red Sea Project, the demand for food will rise considerably. Beyond the estimated one million guests per year by 2030, we are also building a permanent new town for the 14,000 employees who will operate the destination. For us, every problem must be met with a regenerative solution – this is the vision that we are constantly striving to achieve. When we realized the existence of this local farm network and their potential for development, we knew we had to offer them opportunities to create a larger supply to support their businesses to grow alongside our own. In fact, TRSDC is laser-focused on ensuring those living in the communities surrounding the destination are among the first to benefit from the project.
It is much more efficient for crops to grow in vertical farms or hydroponic greenhouses than by traditional farming methods. For example, vertical farming uses 10% of the water supply needed for a crop produced via outside farming. As a result, TRSDC is exploring ways to bring these high-tech farming techniques to our local farms. We are currently investigating the prospect of partnerships with existing agriculture technology providers and farmers who share our vision and values. These include specialists in vertical farms, hydroponics, aeroponics and aquaculture, a more sustainable way to farm fish.
These partners can work together with local farmers, training them and bringing new technology to Saudi Arabia to increase the size of crops harvested by using these approaches. Our system for fresh produce will therefore be a closed loop, in terms of protecting the environment and supporting the growth of local businesses, meaning that we continue to achieve our goal of embedding our regenerative approach into every decision we make and set new international standards in the process.
This plan will have far-reaching benefits starting with the environmental impacts of growing food locally through to job creation for the local farmers. It will also make The Red Sea Project unique for tourists: our guests will be able to walk through these local high-tech farms to choose their own tomatoes and cucumbers. Once handed to the chef, their meal will be made fresh.
Many countries tend to investigate these high-tech approaches in a vacuum but ultimately forget to integrate local farmers. This is to their detriment. TRSDC is committed to a holistic approach that solves the entire puzzle, not just one piece. This is an incredibly exciting and vast prospect for us, but the benefits are there for all to see – for local farmers, the environment, regional agriculture, and visitors alike.
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