Neom: The Future Hub of Sustainable Food Sector

Neom is a city under construction in Saudi Arabia that has been generating a lot of buzz lately. One of its main areas of focus is the food sector, with the aim of becoming a leading hub for sustainable and healthy food production. Located in the northwest of Saudi Arabia, spans over 26,500 square kilometers, making it about the size of Belgium. The city is being built from scratch and is expected to cost around $500 billion. The project is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, which aims to diversify the country’s economy away from oil.

In the food sector, Neom is aiming to use cutting-edge technology to produce sustainable and healthy food. This includes the use of vertical farming, hydroponics, and aquaponics, which allow for year-round production of crops using minimal water and space. The city is also looking to promote organic and regenerative agriculture practices, with the goal of minimizing the environmental impact of food production.

Source: Neom

Neom’s Food Sector

One of Neom’s most ambitious projects in the food sector is the construction of a “solar dome,” which will be the largest in the world. The dome will cover an area of around 17 hectares and will be used to grow vegetables, fruits, and herbs using natural sunlight and controlled climate conditions. The solar dome is expected to produce over 15,000 tons of fresh produce annually, making it a major source of food for the city.

Another key project in the food sector is the development of a “food innovation hub,” which will bring together experts from around the world to develop new food technologies and products. The hub will focus on areas such as plant-based meat alternatives, algae-based foods, and insect protein.

In addition to these projects, Neom is also aiming to create a thriving food scene in the city, with a range of restaurants and cafes serving healthy and sustainable food. The city is also looking to promote local food traditions, such as the production of dates, which are a staple in Saudi Arabian cuisine.

Quality control. Young female scientist stselects new breed of green salad optimized for consumption at greenhouse.

Recently, it announced that it targets producing an innovative food sector with a total output of over 600,000 tons by 2030. This ambitious plan is expected to lead to mass self-sufficiency and a stronger local economy. The production targets for the different components are fruits and vegetables with 325,000 tons, followed by alternative meat and dairy products with a total of 178,000 tons. Aquaculture and grains will contribute to the rest of the production with 80,000 and 48,000 tons, respectively.

Neom: Focus in Aquaculture Sector

NEOM aims to maximize local sustainability by producing native species that live in the Red Sea waters, such as Yellowtail Kingfish, Great Amberjack, Orange-spotted Grouper, and Meagre. The company plans to use innovative marine and land-based production systems ensuring the strictest compliance with environmental regulations, with aquaculture resulting in just 10% of CO2 produced by beef and consuming only half the quantity of fresh water needed to produce one gram of protein.

The projected land-based aquaculture segment includes recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) and recirculating ponds, targeting a total output of 60,000 tons. On the other hand, the offshore aquaculture segment targets the large-scale growing of Red Sea native species, with an annual production of 20,000 tons of kingfish using offshore and nearshore cages with an area of 160 ha and an additional 160 ha of hatcheries and nurseries.

NEOM plans to produce high-quality protein as a substitute for fishmeal to meet the demand for feed from the aquaculture operation being planned. The company plans to produce some 7,000 tons of insect protein meal, 4,000 tons of lipids in addition to 25,000 tons of soil amendments. The plan also envisions setting up an operation for seaweed farming targeting an output of 17,000 tons of dry-weight 40-percent crude protein.

Farm salmon fishing in Norway Aerial FPV drone photography.

NEOM also plans to develop primary and secondary processing of final products. The company aims to focus initially on processing whole fish mainly for the local market with the possibility of selling some abroad. The volume of secondary processed fish such as steaks and fillets is forecasted at 24,000 tons per year.

Given that the Saudi market is currently consuming 9.1 kg of seafood per capita, with 71% of its needs covered by imports, NEOM believes there should be no issues placing production in the local market. The Kingdom projects consumption of fish products to grow to 20 kg per capita by 2030.

NEOM has more than 450 km of coastline on the Red Sea, which enjoys specific features, such as low industrialization and urbanization, no waste water or river runoff, no red tides, suitable depths of 30-80 meters, low (0.5-1 meter) wave heights, and pristine waters. These conditions create the pre-conditions for a successful aquaculture operation, according to the National Fisheries Development Program presentation shown during the Saudi International Marine Exhibition and Conference in Riyadh.

NEOM is backed by more than $500 billion over the coming years by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, as well as local and international investors. NEOM’s contribution to the Kingdom’s GDP is projected to reach $48 billion by 2030, according to NEOM. Moreover, the Tabuk Fisheries Company signed a deal with NEOM in April 2021 to establish “the largest fish farm in the Middle East and North Africa”.

Neom: Vertical Farming and Hydroponic Vision

Vertical farming and hydroponics are becoming increasingly popular methods of food production in the modern era. With limited arable land available for traditional farming, these techniques offer a sustainable and efficient solution to meet the growing demand for food. NEOM, the futuristic city being built in Saudi Arabia, is a prime example of a project that is utilizing vertical farming and hydroponics to create a self-sufficient and sustainable food system.

Vertical farming involves growing crops in vertically stacked layers, using artificial lighting and a controlled environment to create optimal growing conditions. Hydroponics, on the other hand, involves growing plants in nutrient-rich water instead of soil. Both methods offer several advantages over traditional farming, including increased yields, reduced water usage, and improved resource efficiency.

NEOM’s food vertical farming and hydroponic sector aims to revolutionize the way food is grown and consumed in the region. The project has several ambitious goals, including producing 30% of its own food by 2025 and becoming completely food self-sufficient by 2030. Here are some of the specific projects and initiatives that NEOM is undertaking in this sector:

Vertical Farming Research Center:

NEOM has established a state-of-the-art research center that is focused on developing advanced technologies for vertical farming. The center features several cutting-edge research facilities, including plant growth chambers, plant tissue culture labs, and imaging systems. The research center is also collaborating with leading universities and research institutions from around the world to develop new technologies and improve existing ones.

Hydroponic Greenhouses:

NEOM has built several large-scale hydroponic greenhouses that are capable of producing a wide variety of crops. These greenhouses use advanced hydroponic systems, such as nutrient film technique (NFT) and deep water culture (DWC), to grow crops without soil. The greenhouses are also equipped with automated climate control systems, which help to maintain optimal growing conditions.

Indoor cultivation of lettuce in circular structures rotating.

Vertical Farming Towers:

NEOM has constructed several vertical farming towers that are capable of producing crops year-round. These towers use a combination of artificial lighting, hydroponic systems, and automated climate control to create ideal growing conditions for crops. The towers are also designed to be highly efficient, using minimal amounts of water and energy.

NEOM has already announced several projects related to vertical farming and hydroponics. One such project is the “Greenhouse Megafarm” that will cover an area of 10 hectares and use a combination of vertical farming and hydroponics to grow vegetables, fruits, and herbs. The megafarm is expected to produce up to 90 tons of fresh produce annually, making it the largest vertical farm in the world.

Another project is the “Neom Horticultural Village,” which will feature a network of greenhouses and vertical farms covering an area of 45 hectares. The village will use advanced techniques such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics to optimize crop yields and reduce waste.

NEOM’s food vertical farming and hydroponic sector is making significant progress towards its ambitious goals. As of 2021, the project has already achieved several major milestones, including the production of over 12,000 tons of fresh produce annually. NEOM is also continuing to invest in research and development, with the aim of improving the efficiency and sustainability of its food production systems even further.


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