More with Less; Shaping a New Future for Food Security and Sustainability
By HRH Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, founder and CEO, KBW Ventures
Last month, global governments marked World Food Day and pledged solidarity to rethink and reshape the sustainable and secure development of our food systems. This is a topic that remains at the heart of the industry’s discussions, especially for the increasingly urbanized and interconnected international populations.
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) notes that by 2050, the world’s food production and supply networks will need to sustainably feed more than 9 billion people – a demand that will be 60 percent greater than it is today. Recent estimates also reveal that over 51 million people in the Near East and North Africa region have been grappling with hunger, owing to tremendous pressures on agriculture systems due to the loss of biodiversity and climate change. This translates to a demand for investments worth US$40-50 billion annually to make changes in agri-food systems if we are to end world hunger by 2030.
In the wake of this harsh reality, I see a promising opportunity for governments, the private sector, and startups to reimagine our food chains to be cleaner, greener, and smarter; to do more with less.
We must quickly and efficiently bring agriculture from the industrial age into the digital one, and this is a gap I am confident that Saudi Arabia will soon close.
Appetite for innovation
Saudi Arabia and the UAE lead food consumption in the GCC, with industry experts predicting an 81 percent combined share of regional food consumers in 2023. To put this into perspective, food consumption across the region is expected to reach more than 50 million metric tons by 2025. Increase in population, growing tourism, high per capita income and a sustained economic recovery are likely to drive this growth.
Galvanized by the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, both governments recognize that building strong, reliable, and resilient food systems are critical to promoting ecological harmony. In this journey, innovations in agtech will propel us into the next era.
I see the region’s agriculture sector primed for a technological and digital renaissance. We are already witnessing transformative technologies developing at pace, with sovereign wealth capital worth $200 million having been earmarked for agtech investments in 2020. Regional governments are renewing their focus on innovations like biotechnology and agtech to secure strategic reserves of food.
Soon, agtech concepts like vertical farming, and food tech concepts like alternative proteins and cellular agriculture, will become the norm. KBW Ventures has invested in different businesses working in both sectors that are seeking the same conclusions: food security and generating more with less.
Success in scalability
However, the missing ingredient is scalability. True success can only be achieved when innovation meets a long-term vision for a sustainable future. This is an ambition that is very close to my heart, and one that I endeavor to continue exploring with KBW Ventures.
Most recently, we proposed a viable solution to pilot, which has the potential to provide the sustainable production of seafood and algae production in the desert. One of our portfolio companies, Blue Planet Ecosystems, partnered with The Red Sea Development Company to support its regenerative tourism ambitions and investigate sustainable, high-tech, CO2-negative fish production. In essence, this means setting a new global standard in sustainable, multitrophic desert aquaculture where we can literally turn sunlight into seafood.
Ultimately, delivering on the promise of innovation-driven food security requires a holistic approach. Now more than ever, synergies in innovation must drive pioneering solutions that can provide the world’s population with the food they need today, and for the future.
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