- Flagship projects in water and pest management set to redefine standards
- Partnership prioritises knowledge sharing, innovation, and joint initiatives
- Early-stage, cutting-edge solutions are being developed to grow a competitive and sustainable agriculture sector
AlUla, Saudi Arabia, 31 October 2023: The partnership between the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is addressing pivotal agricultural challenges through two flagship projects in water and pest management.
AlUla's distinct approach to innovation is anchored in its aspiration to contribute tangibly to global well-being. This partnership with KAUST embodies this vision, pushing the envelope to craft solutions that combine sustainability with efficiency and support the preservation of natural and cultural heritage.
The pressing need to conserve scarce water resources in AlUla has underscored the partnership's focus on water management. Through optimising water usage for crops, they are pioneering innovations with the potential to bring transformative change to water-scarce regions worldwide. This effort isn't solely about conservation—it's a vision of smarter utilisation that benefits both the land and its people. Such an approach could very well serve as a blueprint for other regions grappling with similar challenges.
Evidence of this hands-on water management collaboration was seen in the concluded pilot project in a Cultural Oasis District farm and the corresponding compost sample analyses conducted at the KAUST facility. Through an advanced composting technology solution, agricultural waste that otherwise gets burned was converted into compost soil with high water retention and nutrient value. Promising results confirm the ability to create products to improve soil’s water retention capabilities, which could reduce a farm’s carbon emissions by ~70%, reduce water consumption by ~50%, and improve their yield by ~40%.
Other water management projects in the pipeline include development of heat- and drought-tolerant crops, with potential water savings of 300L per kilogram of produce. There is also an upcoming pilot project for a mobile, remote-controlled, and decentralised wastewater treatment plant which can recycle water for agricultural use, gardening and landscaping, and toilet flushing, with potential energy savings up to 80%.
In the domain of pest and disease management, the collaboration has yielded promising results with the potential to create an indelible impact on date farming in AlUla and beyond. Harnessing cutting-edge technology to detect pest infestations—through machine learning algorithms that filter out environmental noise (wind)—this initiative might soon set a new global standard in sustainable farming.
A now concluded pilot, dedicated to preserving palm trees, involved the innovative use of optic fiber cables wrapped around palm trees between Aljadeeda and the Cultural Oasis District farms. The solution works by using fiber optics to detect the early stages red palm weevil larvae infestation before any visible impact can be detected This method has now shown to achieve the early detection of the red palm weevil, showcasing the dedication of RCU and KAUST to sustainable and cutting-edge agricultural practices
Beyond the dedication to sustainable, cutting-edge practices, RCU and KAUST will also be publishing a joint white-paper on the results of the pilot to benefit the broader date farming industry globally.
RCU is now exploring ways to scale up the adoption of the solutions from both the water and pest management pilots in AlUla.
AlUla's trajectory, fueled by such collaborations, places it at the intersection of innovation and societal benefit, further solidifying its emerging status as a hub for groundbreaking agricultural techniques.
These successful pilots also highlight RCU’s ongoing commitment to sustainability and its goal of achieving net zero carbon (for local emissions) by 2035 ahead of the United Nations climate change conference (COP 28) taking place in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December and the Saudi Green Initiative (SGI) Forum and Gallery running concurrent to COP 28.