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How to create a sustainable food supply in the desert

By Nicholas King – Chief Development Officer at The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC)

Food resources are stretched to their limits. Increasing populations, climate change and the agricultural impact of food production all pose serious threats to the future of food production. 

Now imagine trying to create a sustainable food supply in the desert. With harsh temperatures, infrequent rainfall and arid land, the challenges to overcome are substantial. 
But, at The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC), this is exactly what our team of scientists, agronomists, and developers are aiming to do. As we prepare to welcome our first guests to The Red Sea Project in Q4 2022, we need to be prepared to provide a variety of healthy food to our guests which has minimal impact on the environment. 
What are the challenges of creating food sources in the desert and how do we overcome them?

The first and most obvious challenge to creating a natural food supply is the heat and intense exposure to sunlight. This causes water to evaporate rapidly meaning deserts have a 'negative water balance', leading to plants dehydrating and dying quickly. To combat this, we are looking at indoor and vertical farming, which will offer climate-controlled temperatures. These methods could deliver impressive yields for smaller spaces and leave plants less exposed to pests and diseases lessening the need for pesticides. 

The negative water balance is further exacerbated by the lack of naturally occurring clay in the soil. Clay is vitally important as without this mineral the soil cannot retain what little water is available leaving it thin and infertile. To combat these conditions, we are currently researching the use of environmentally friendly soil additives and precision agriculture to combat infertile soil while looking into rainwater harvesting initiatives. These initiatives would allow us to collect water for use in irrigation and provide a platform to research and use more sustainable irrigation techniques, including drip and sprinkler irrigation instead of flood irrigation.

A Partnership Approach

At TRSDC, our ambition is to overcome these challenges while setting new standards in sustainability. That is why we are choosing to take a collaborative and partner-focused approach to our work. By working with likeminded associations, we can turn our ambitious sustainability goals into a reality. 

It’s an exciting opportunity, and we’re looking forward to working with others who share our passion for sustainability!