RIYADH: Mansour Al-Mushaiti, the vice minister of environment, water and agriculture, announced the establishment of the first Saudi AgriFood Tech Alliance at the launch ceremony on Wednesday in Riyadh.

Also participating in the launch came were the founding partners, namely the Research, Development and Innovation Authority, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, and Topian, a subsidiary of NEOM.

During his opening speech, Al-Mushaiti said that SAFTA aims to establish a network for those interested in implementing new technologies in the agricultural and food sectors, using a national platform for collaboration and communication.

The alliance includes entities from the public and private sectors, and universities, and is considered the first of its kind in the region as it brings together leaders and actors in the agricultural and food sector under one roof.

“Forty institutions have joined this alliance, including major local companies in the agriculture and food production sector, several universities and research centers, finance and investment funds, and non-profit organizations,” said Al-Mushaiti.

He added that the ministry has a national strategy for the environment, water and agriculture sectors aimed at preserving and developing natural resources.

“These strategies paved the way for many successes, where the agricultural sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product increased to SR109 billion ($29 billion) in 2023, marking the highest contribution of this sector in its history.”

The alliance aims to create a community and build an integrated network that stimulates the dissemination of agricultural food technologies at national level.

In light of increasing local and global demand for food and the disruptions in global supply chains, Al-Mushaiti said that forging partnerships is the path toward a sustainable future of agriculture and food in the Kingdom.

SAFTA will address these challenges through national-scale use and adoption of technological solutions, including innovations related to precision agriculture, biotechnology, nanotechnology, alternative foods, innovative fertilizers and biopesticides.

Amr Atiah, vice president of campus and community at KAUST, told Arab News that the university believes that this alliance will create a collaborative platform for knowledge exchange, partnership building and coordinated efforts.

“The alliance facilitates the translation of cutting-edge research into practical solutions that address pressing challenges in the Saudi agri-food sector.”

Atiah added that the alliance is a coalition of stakeholders powerful enough to mobilize efforts toward achieving Saudi Vision 2030.

SAFTA will be overseen and supervised by an autonomous alliance secretariat and governed by a steering committee.

Members will convene on a quarterly and annual basis to exchange expertise, identify synergies, establish collaborations, and collectively work to influence policy and lead projects that enhance the wider ecosystem.

Mark Hull, acting head of the alliance secretariat, said that the SAFTA secretariat is committed to driving coordination and collaboration in the food sector.

“Through strategic planning, effective management and strong stakeholder engagement, we aim to catalyze the deployment of sustainable technology solutions that address the environmental, water, and agricultural challenges facing our nation.”

During his presentation, Nick Betts, the managing director of Canza, said that complex challenges sometimes require complex solutions.

“Therefore, an alliance enables multiple perspectives, competencies and resources to better understand complex challenges and perpetrate significant opportunities.”