UAE-based agritech company Veggitech, owned by Saudi-based SNASCO Investments, is studying the possibilities of expanding into Saudi Arabia, a senior executive said.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is booming, and we see big opportunities to set up a farm in Jeddah, [where SNASCO is headquartered). The project will be built on our own land, which is around 50,000 square metres (sqm),” Rami Nairat, Group CFO, SNASCO Investments told Zawya Projects in an exclusive interview.
“We are in the study phase and are looking at investments between 15 to 20 million UAE dirhams; we are looking at all possibilities such as equity or banks or other options,” he said.
Nairat pointed out that the growth foray is not limited to Saudi Arabia.
“We also see opportunities in countries like India and Pakistan where we can apply our techniques and know-how. This will also help us to produce the same yields with the same specifications but lower manpower costs. Hence, import costs will lower too.”
SNASCO Holding’s acquisition of Sharjah-based Veggitech in 2021 marked the Saudi investment company’s first venture into the agritech sector outside the Kingdom.
Nairat elaborated: “Initially, the strategy was to have five farms in six years, but we achieved five farms in two and a half to three years, and we found that the demand is growing year-on-year for our products. Today, we have around 360,000 sqm of productive land. Now we are looking at acquiring one farm a year.”
“Our sales growth is 200 per cent y-o-y and we have so many projects in the pipeline. In future, we plan to add more products to our portfolio of 25 products because the (Veggitech) brand is well-loved and the demand is more than what we can supply.”
The company is also in discussions with the UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) and a leading bank to get funding for a pilot project to implement its new BOT (Build-operate-Transfer) model.
The anticipated population growth in the GCC to 58.3 million by 2030 and 72.3 million by 2050 has prompted a search for food production methods to counter the region's climate challenge, noted Valentina Olabi, Research Specialist at the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) in her article titled 'Farming for the Future: Hydroponics' Role in GCC's Path to Food Security.’
According to Nairat, using under-utilised farmland could be a key part of the food security programme in the region. “If you use the right technology and learn the right techniques and knowhow, it will go a long way to improving the food security programme in the region and people will also feel safe,” he concluded.
(Reporting by Sona Nambiar; Editing by Anoop Menon)
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