The world’s population is projected to reach 10 billion people by 2050, and the population of the Gulf region alone is expected to double by this time. The challenge of food security is even more critical across the Middle East, which imports an estimated 85% of its food from abroad.
The pressing food security threat has led to increased investment in the AgriTech sector across the Middle East and the emergence of new startups offering innovative farming solutions to tackle the problem and improve the output efficiency of agricultural processes.
In this article, we take a look at five of the top AgriTech startups in the Middle East and how they’re reshaping the future of food through the application of innovative strategies and emerging technologies.
Overview: State of AgriTech in the Middle East
The Middle East is mostly dependent on imported food, as the desert environment, arid climate, and limited water resources are unsustainable for traditional agricultural farming techniques.
Due to growing sustainability concerns and consumer consciousness about where their food comes from, how it’s produced, and what impact it has on the environment, there is an increased focus on food security and innovative farming methods in the Middle East.
Dependence on imports is risky. This was realized during the Covid-19 pandemic when supply chains were disrupted as a result of lockdowns. The disease and its consequences acted as a wake up call for the Middle East, which has since increased investment and focus on tackling the issue of food security to ensure it remains independent and able to rely on its own agriculture industry moving forward.
Across the world, food productivity must increase by 1.73% annually to double agricultural output by 2050 and avoid the growth of the “productivity gap” which will cause countries to become more reliant on traditional farming methods and the cost of food to rise. AgriTech investment and innovation is key to overcoming this problem by creating sustainable supply chains.
Sky Kurtz, co-founder and CEO of Pure Harvest Smart Farms – one of the AgriTech startups featured in this article – commented on the fundamental shifts taking place in the agriculture sector:
“The cry for change, for sustainability, and for safer food alternatives has been getting louder, whether it be by the government, media, or consumers, who demonstrate the very real demand for technologies to address these very real challenges. A fast-growing population and growing tourism are increasing the demand for healthy food options, and consumers increasingly prefer locally-produced food.”
Return on investment is the overarching driving factor when it comes to investment in AgriTech. However, growing interest in ESG initiatives is also driving the long-term sustainability for investments in the sector.
Top 5 Middle East AgriTech startups and their digital innovations
Here are some of the most exciting AgriTech startups in the Middle East that are paving the way for a more sustainable future.
Pure Harvest Smart Farms
Pure Harvest Smart Farms (Pure Harvest) is a leading sustainable technology-enable AgriTech business with its headquarters in the UAE.
The company recently raised USD $180.5 million in their latest growth funding round, and are backed by key global investors including Metric Capital Partners, IMM Investment Corp, and Olayan Group. Currently Pure Harvest operates in the Middle East, but plans to open new markets across the GCC and in Asia with these investment funds.
Focused on the year-round sustainable production of premium fruit and vegetables, Pure Harvest empowers consumers to purchase locally-grown produce using innovative agriculture technologies.
According to their website, their produce is cleaner than organically cultivated fruits and vegetables, and their high-tech greenhouses allow for precise climate and environmental controls for increased productivity and reduced waste. Using innovative tech solutions, Pure Harvest tackles the region’s hostile climate for quality production.
The company is also committed to supporting region-wide initiatives to improve food security, economic diversification and to increase job opportunities. Their goal? To lead the Middle East towards sustainable agriculture. Moving forward, Pure Harvest is definitely a company to watch.
Palmear is an AgriTech startup that utilizes big data, AI and audio engineering to mitigate agricultural challenges faced by the palm industry. The platform enables farmers to map and manage infestations in real-time while providing valuable crop data to improve productivity through sustainable initiatives.
The premise of Palmear’s technology platform is to determine the location of early pest infestations to enable growers to target the use of chemicals and pesticides.
The platform is fun and simple, so users can quickly detect pests through sound – whether they’re in the ground or in the trees. Armed with this technology, farmers can optimize their pest responses to be more environmentally friendly.
Palmear is defined as a real-time management tool that empowers farmers and stake-holders to make data-driven decisions.
Red Sea Farms
Headquartered in Saudi Arabia, Red Sea Farms is committed to reducing society’s carbon and water footprint through technology-enabled solutions that are designed to function and improve productivity in harsh environments.
Their unique patented agriculture technologies utilize saltwater, novel humidity control and solar energy to improve farming yield and reduce costs involved in food production.
Their approach brings together precision climate control, advanced plant science, and AI-enabled systems to support sustainable agriculture practices in regions with limited water resources.
The Red Sea Farms philosophy revolves around care for people and the planet. By combining innovative technologies, they create environmentally-friendly and economically sustainable solutions to support growth and the nutritional needs of harsh environment countries.
Madar Farms is a vertical farming company that promotes the growth of fresh produce within the UAE through sustainable farming methods.
The company implements advanced AgriTech solutions to tackle the challenges of water security and food sustainability across the region.
Their mission is to provide continuous and predictable food supply, promote local food production and consumption, emphasize the responsible use of natural resources, and execute their commitment to providing equal access to food for everyone.
By building a network of farms that utilize advanced technologies, they help facilitate optimal growing conditions that protect plants from external weather conditions and allow for the growth of food all-year-round.
Madar Farms recognizes the strain that population growth and urban expansion have put on the region’s food supply. They take a technology-first approach towards food production by creating controlled environments where plants’ variables can be controlled and optimized.
Additionally, using hydroponics they can leverage a soilless growing environment where plants get the nutrients they need from water solutions. Vertical farming techniques allow them to maximize space and reduce environmental impact.
World of Farming
World of Farming (WoF) is a Dubai based AgriTech startup that aims to address the UAE’s dependence on livestock feed and imports. They want to address this issue by building a circular hydroponic fodder farming methodology to provide local farmers with a cost-effective alternative to expensive international imports. The company claims to use 90% less water and land than traditional farming methods.
In an article published on Arabian Business, WoF’s CEO Walid Saad commented:
“Our vertical farms will completely eliminate local farmer’s need for international import to feed their livestock. They will also enjoy the cost saving benefits while minimizing nutritional losses due to long term storage, or logistics and storage costs,”
Using big data, WoF’s patented technology solution monitors and adjusts farming parameters to identify the best environments for production. The vertical farm leverages AI and imagery to determine the health, rate of growth, and any disease risks during the growth cycle.
Although the startup is currently patent-pending, it’s looking to secure more funding to expand its operations across the region.
What does the future hold for the AgriTech industry in the Middle East?
Future-proofing the region’s agriculture sector is the main reason for the boom in AgriTech startups taking place.
By using advanced technologies to improve food security, reduce the use of finite resources, improve health, and generate employment opportunities these AgriTech companies can make a lasting impact on the region.
Ensuring the implementation of the best digital marketing strategies for the agriculture sector, these companies can lead the region towards a more sustainable and secure future.
Want to know more about trends in the AgriTech sector in the Middle East?
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