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NEOM to produce over 600,000 tons of sustainable food to help achieve Saudi self-sufficiency

RIYADH: As part of its mandate to create the most sustainable and eco-friendly food ecosystems, NEOM aims to produce an innovative food sector with a total production of more than 600,000 tonnes by 2030. he announces.

This should lead to mass self-efficacy and a stronger local economy, the company said in a presentation shown at the Saudi International Maritime Exhibition and Conference in Riyadh on Sunday.

Fruits and vegetables will be the main components produced, with a contribution of some 325,000 tonnes, followed by alternative meat and dairy products with a total of 178,000 tonnes. Aquaculture and cereals come next with production plans of 80,000 tonnes and 48,000 tonnes respectively, according to the company.

As for aquaculture — which produces only 10% of the CO2 produced by beef and consumes only half the amount of fresh water needed to produce one gram of protein — NEOM will focus on the development of innovative marine and land-based production systems guaranteeing the strictest compliance with environmental regulations.

Production mainly targets native species that live in Red Sea waters to maximize local sustainability, such as yellowtail amberjack, greater amberjack, orange spotted grouper and meager. NEOM is aiming for a total production of 80,000 tons per year for all of these species, helping it to exceed self-sufficiency levels.

Identifying the selection of species for production is based on assessing their market value, in order to achieve higher levels of efficiency when starting production.

Production is initially planned to use indoor or closed tanks with a recirculating aquaculture system, also known as RAS, over an area of ​​22 hectares. The area of ​​the recirculation basins is initially planned at 2,500 ha.

NEOM said the projected land-based aquaculture segment, which will include RAS and recirculating ponds, is targeting a total production of 60,000 tonnes. The share of the recirculation basins is set at 48,000 while that of the RAS is planned at 12,000 tonnes.

Regarding marine or offshore aquaculture, NEOM is studying the opportunity to dedicate some 350 ha of its waters in the Red Sea to the breeding of marine species. The marine segment targets the large-scale cultivation of species native to the Red Sea.

The technique that NEOM plans to use is that of offshore and nearshore cages with an area of ​​160 ha and an additional 160 ha of hatcheries and nurseries. The operation is expected to produce 20,000 tonnes of trevallies per year.

NEOM has also developed a plan to use a number of technologies to produce high quality protein as a substitute for fishmeal to meet the feed demand of the planned aquaculture operation. The company said it 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 devised by NEOM provides for the establishment of a seaweed farm aimed at producing 17,000 tonnes of crude protein at 40% dry weight. Such an operation is envisaged in the form of onshore and nearshore breeding linked to the production sites.

Further downstream in the production cycle, NEOM plans to develop with partners the primary and secondary processing of finished products. The company aims to focus initially on the processing of whole fish mainly for the local market with the possibility of selling part of it abroad. The production of first processing fish, gutted or trimmed, is planned at 25,000 tonnes per year in addition to 31,000 tonnes per year of whole fish.

The volume of secondary processed fish such as steaks and fillets is forecast at 24,000 tons per year.

Given that the Saudi market currently consumes 9.1 kg of seafood per capita and that 71% of its needs are met by imports, NEOM believes that there should be no problem in placing production on the local market. .

The Kingdom predicts that the consumption of fish products will reach 20 kg per capita by 2030.

NEOM has over 450 km of coastline on the Red Sea. The coastline benefits from some specific characteristics such as: low industrialization and urbanization, no sewage or river runoff, no red tides, suitable depths of 30 to 80 meters and low wave heights (0.5 to 1 meter) as well as crystal clear waters. All this creates the preconditions for successful aquaculture operation, according to the presentation of the National Fisheries Development Program presented during the SIMEC in Riyadh on January 30.

NEOM’s geographical location ensures a temperate climate, about 10°C cooler on average than the rest of the GCC. It is a mountainous region that is home to various terrains in the northwest of Saudi Arabia. The region also has cooler winds from the Red Sea. The relatively cooler waters along NEOM’s coastline on the Red Sea provide some of the best conditions for aquaculture in the region, according to the company’s website.

State-owned NEOM and The Red Sea Development Co. are leading the Saudi government’s efforts to increase yields from the aquaculture sector fivefold by 2030, in coordination with other key private players.

NEOM will be backed by more than $500 billion over the next few years from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, as well as local and international investors. NEOM’s contribution to the Kingdom’s GDP is expected to reach $48 billion by 2030, according to NEOM.

It is worth mentioning that the Tabuk Fisheries Company signed an agreement with NEOM in April 2021 to establish “the largest fish farm in the Middle East and North Africa”, according to the futuristic city. Tabuk Fisheries Co. is headquartered in Tabuk, the regional center about 180 km from the port of Diba on the Red Sea.

Established in 2005, the company is known as the producer of various species of fish with the use of floating cages on land. The company’s projects are located 50 km north of the village of Al-Moyleh on the Red Sea coast. The project’s current production capacity is about 2,000 tons per year, according to the company’s website.

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