The Forward Fooding AgriFoodTech MENA region report, developed in partnership with NEOM, a mega-project in northwest Saudi Arabia considered an accelerator of human progress and a vision of what Humanity’s future may look like, outlines the progress of the AgriFoodTech ecosystem in the Middle East & Wider region as well as the leading companies driving this sector in this area of the world.
Some Statistics In The Middle East According to Forward Fooding
A vastly desertic area, with few arable land available for farming given the scorch temperatures and the scarcity of water resources thus, forcing countries to import the majority of their food consumption from other countries. With a population expected to grow by 50% by 2050, many countries will need to find sustainable solutions to feed an increasingly urban & westernized population.
For these reasons, in recent times AgriFood technologies capable of overcoming these challenges have captivated the interest of both Middle Eastern public investment authorities and VCs, as well as local leading universities. Investments in AgriFoodTech startups and scaleups companies in the Middle East & Wider Region have become more and more significant over the years, reaching €1.5Bn (USD 1.5Bn) in 2021 as per Forward Fooding’s data.
Vertical Farming, A Growing Segment in The Middle East & Wider Region AgriFoodTech Ecosystem
According to FoodTech Data Navigator, the AgriFoodTech ecosystem in the MENA region features about 270 local startups and scale-ups within 427 ecosystem actors. Though represented by many different agritech companies ranging from Food Delivery up to Next-Gen Food & Drinks, vertical farming is a growing sector with Pure Harvest Smart Farms from the UAE & Red Sea Farms from KSA leading the way in terms of funds raised (Respectively USD 153.9M & USD 38.8M).
Commenting on the report, Max Leveau COO of Forward Fooding says: “It is difficult to say at this stage if VF companies will experience the same, perhaps delayed growth as VF companies in the USA/ Europe, but vertical farming is perceived as one of the key solutions being explored to achieve greater food security and self-reliance in the Middle East. There are still very few companies operating in the sector in the region but the investment is growing rapidly so we should expect more companies to emerge and investors to follow through.”
The region is also registering several strategic partnerships between public and private ecosystems, further promoting entrepreneurship, research, and the development of new companies. Initiatives such as the Emirati FoodTech Challenge and the FoodTech Valley are illustrations of the region’s implication in the AgriFoodTech sector. From an MNC point of view, several international companies such as Aerofarms, IGS, InFarm, and, more recently, Urban Crop Solutions have partnered with local companies and/or invested in facilities, showing the attractiveness of the region to other actors from the industry on the global stage.
As witnessed in other sectors, we could see a point in the future where MENA startups, similar to what the oil & gas industry has witnessed, develop their IP and equipment capable of operating their Agritech system without the help of US/ Europe/ Asian giants because of the efforts made by local authorities in terms of investments, environment, and other help.
“This is the ambition that has been set in the region, in particular in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Initiatives like FoodTech Valley, FoodTech Challenge, or NEOM have the objective of creating a true FoodTech Ecosystem, and to see not only foreign entrepreneurs deploy their activities in the region, but also create the right environment in terms of regulation, support, and investments, to see more and more local startups emerging.” Says Max Leveau, COO of Forward Fooding
It is undeniable that the region will take a significant proportion in the upcoming years, given the global food supply chain disruptions and the climate change issues.
Curious to see more info and data on the Middle East & Wider Region AgriFoodTech ecosystem? Would you like to hear the views of local experts?
For this and more, you can find Forward Fooding and NEOM’s full report HERE!
And if you are, too, a key player in the Middle East & Wider Region AgriFoodTech ecosystem, put yourself on the map today by adding your organization here.