On February 27, the Kingdom’s Ministry of Economy and Planning (MEP) launched the Food Ecosystems in Arid Climate Challenge in collaboration with the World Economic Forum’s UpLink and the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture.

Anchored in collaboration, the challenge is a global call for food entrepreneurs, start-ups, social ventures, and small to medium-sized enterprises to submit solutions that incorporate low or high technologies.

The winning team will be eligible to receive CHF100,000 to implement and scale their venture in regions with arid climates, in addition to accessing strong networking opportunities.

Dr. Hosam Rowaihy, Head of the Decision Support Unit and Senior Advisor to the Minister of Economy and Planning, delivered the opening remarks at the launch, where he said: “We must adopt innovative approaches. We should think beyond traditional solutions and invest in tech-enabled systems by supporting young entrepreneurs who will work hard to address global challenges. The Kingdom is fully committed to being a major innovation accelerator, and empowering entrepreneurs to tackle the global challenge of food security.”

The event also included a speech by Dr. Najah Ashry, Vice-President of Strategic National Advancement and Senior Associate to the President of KAUST. She said harnessing collaborative efforts is key to identifying sustainable solutions to food insecurity, adding that KAUST and the Kingdom have the research, talent, and entrepreneurial spirit required to contribute to these challenges.

Dr. Ashry said: “Through the challenge, we have an ideal opportunity to showcase our talent, creativity, and resilience, as we strive to achieve the goals of Saudi Vision 2030 and build a sustainable future for our country.”

As of 2022, 828 million people are estimated to be affected by hunger worldwide. 2.3 billion are food insecure, while 3.1 billion people are unable to afford a healthy diet and more than 700 million are expected to be displaced by 2030 due to drought.

The Food Ecosystems in Arid Climates Challenge marks the first of two initiatives focused on food systems, with a second, set to explore climate-smart agriculture, to be launched later in 2023.