KAUST and MEWA to establish the algal biotechnology industry to create more sustainable food sources

KAUST and MEWA to establish the algal biotechnology industry in line with Vision 2030 goal of creating more sustainable food sources

KAUST has announced a collaboration with The Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture (MEWA) to deliver the “Development of Algal Biotechnology in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” (DABKSA). The project aims to develop technologies that produce animal feed for agriculture in the KSA. The project – overseen by MEWA’s National Fisheries Development Program (NFDP) and located on the KAUST campus – is set to establish a sustainable feed industry in Saudi Arabia while opening new economic ventures for the aquaculture industry.

Finite resources such as land, water and energy are used to rear animals. Animal feed is vital to the process and a significant amount of global greenhouse gas emissions are related to feed production and processing. New innovation and technology in sustainable feed solutions can lower the environmental impact. One such solution is the development and promotion of aquaculture and the use of plentiful seaweeds. With Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea and Arabian Gulf coastlines measuring roughly 3,400 kilometers there is ample opportunity for innovation.

DABKSA will see the design, build and operation of a proof of concept algae plant at KAUST. This strategic project aligns with Vision 2030 and the Saudi Green Initiative’s focus on food security. Producing local raw material for animal feed will enable the Kingdom to be less reliant on importing raw materials from abroad.

MEWA has engaged KAUST’s consultancy arm, Beacon Development, to develop the project. The facility is in the KAUST Research and Technology Park, an area that provides all the essential technical requirements and equipment to operate the facility.

We’re extremely proud to announce the partnership between MEWA and KAUST that targets the localization of algae production in the Kingdom. This collaboration will result in major progress in this field, further delivering Saudi Arabia’s food security and sustainable future for generations to come,” said Dr Kevin Cullen, vice president of KAUST Innovation.

Phase One of the project is currently under development, focusing on building and commissioning 870 m2 microalgae facilities. During this phase, microalgae biomass will be produced and incorporated as a raw material to feed animals such as fish and poultry. The pilot-scale facilities will provide documented data of algae productivity during an entire year of operation. These production numbers will allow for a realistic life cycle and economics assessment while proving its use towards sustainability.

CEO of National Fisheries Development Program, Dr. Ali Al Shaiki, stated that, “This project is an extension of the concerted efforts undertaken by the Ministry in this field; starting with the algae roadmap developed by several local and international experts. The Ministry aligned with the major players in this field and financial resources were allocated to this project, a real turning point in algae production in Saudi Arabia.”

Contributing to the Kingdom’s sustainable food production is a central pillar of the KAUST vision. The university has long incorporated a holistic cycle of aquaculture and agriculture in its ongoing efforts to find solutions for the pressing issue of food security in Saudi Arabia and beyond.

Achieving a greater degree of food security will result in a more green and sustainable economy for the next generations. KAUST is proud to partner with MEWA to promote advanced technology that will lead to a better future for the world.