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Growing sustainable vegetables in the Saudi Arabian desert under 80 hectares of glass

Dava corporation, owned by the Al Batal family, recently signed a new deal with Debets Schalke for the expansion of Dava's greenhouse complexes in the Al-Kharj region. In response to increased demand for fresh premium quality vegetables, Dava corporation is announcing a series of greenhouse projects designed to provide sustainably farmed and locally grown vegetables. Dava corporation already entered into a partnership with Debets Schalke for a 44 hectares greenhouse complex in 2019. Together with the 36 hectares expansion it will own 80 hectares of glass acreage. The deal is part of the Vision 2030 that contributes to sustainable developments in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).

Turn-key greenhouse project

The Dava project, which will cover more than 80 hectares, is spread over 5 high technology greenhouse projects. At this moment the construction is in full swing. The first greenhouse project is almost completed and the second greenhouse project is at an advanced stage. Debets Schalke has started the engineering and delivering of the greenhouse materials for the other 3 greenhouse projects at the different locations in the Al-Kharj region. Groundwork is completed  at these projects. “Plans for the massive expansion were already on the table before the CoVid19 outbreak. The global outbreak underlined the importance of food independence and food safety. Of course, the CoVid19 outbreak meant we also had to be inventive in order to remotely supervise the greenhouse project with an eye for detail. Working remotely requires extra attention to all parts of the greenhouse project. We also faced logistic challenges, but despite everything we managed to get everything to the different locations on time”,says Wim van Weele, sales export manager at Debets Schalke.

Self-sufficient

“We are responsible for the entire greenhouse complex; from engineering to final commissioning. After the realisation the Dutch Venlo greenhouses contribute to facilitating the hydroponic cultivation of cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers in every possible way. I am proud that we can contribute to Vision 2030 and food independence with these large-scale turn-key greenhouse projects”,says Wim.

In the Netherlands alone,138 million euros worth of fruit and vegetables were exported to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2019. According to experts, global food production will have to double by 2050. Therefore food safety is high on the KSA agenda, all the more so because local production is severely limited by a chronic freshwater shortage. The water usage per kilo of tomatoes grown in a high-tech greenhouse is 8 liters. While a kilo of tomatoes grown in an open field has a water usage of 60 liters. Growing under glass is therefore also essential for sustainable water usage. For that reason it is at least as important for food safety to reduce food losses or increase sustainable food production.

Vision 2030

With the start of the Dava greenhouse complex in 2019, Dava corporation started to provide the 44 hectare greenhouse facilities with technology to allow agriculture to flourish in the tough environment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The expansion to 80 hectares of greenhouse glass underlines the need for local-for-local vegetables. The CoVid19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of self-sufficiency. Airfreight rates were sky-high and it was difficult to import premium fruit and vegetables for a reasonable price.

Mr. Faisal Al Batal, owner of Dava Cooperation, says, “This is an exciting time for Dava. Our rapid growth has presented real challenges like the construction of the 5 greenhouse projects at once and the numerous people that we are currently recruiting for all aspects of our agricultural business. The proposed expansion of our greenhouse complexes are a necessary part of ensuring for the longer term that we can continue to prosper and create high quality jobs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, just as vision 2030 obliges us to do.”

Technology

“Growing conditions in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are difficult. The climate is dry and warm, but with the realisation of the 80 hectare greenhouse complexes we have the strength to meet the local demand for quality vegetables and create jobs. Dutch knowledge is mainly used in the development and realisation of these cultivation complexes. We are undergoing an essential shift to a technology-assisted agricultural model to meet the consumers demand for affordable, premium-quality food. The large-scale greenhouse complexes will improve food safety in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but the innovation will have benefits far beyond its borders. Our geographic position between key global waterways makes the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia an epicenter of trade and the gateway to the world. When you combine the local abundance of sunlight with energy and water efficient climate control systems the greenhouses make a compelling case as it will be able to supply a huge part of the Middle East,” ads Mr. Faisal Al Batal.

Dynamic growth

“We are experiencing dynamic growth”, says Mr. Faisal Al Batal. “We have a job opening for an experienced CEO, ideally with in-house horticultural experience, who will take the strategic and operational lead for our multiple greenhouses in the KSA area. We need a CEO who is able to quickly adapt to a different cultural style and personal people management. Dava’s CEO must have a strategic leadership approach, one that respects loyalty and engenders trust whilst remaining highly results driven and focused on success. Dava’s main goal is to contribute to the Vision 2030 goals by supplying sustainable, fresh and healthy premium vegetables at a reasonable price for the market in the Middle East. Do you fit the profile and are you interested in the CEO position? Then send an e-mail to dylan@debets.nl, “adds Mr. Faisal Al Batal.

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