Across the Middle East, the future of food is changing. The enormous resource and environmental cost of traditional agriculture in an unforgiving desert environment has led to the emergence of many new agritech companies as well as an unprecedented level of investment in emerging agriculture technologies.

The United Nations Population Division projects that the world population will grow to 10 billion people by 2050, and the population of the Gulf region alone is set to double in size by the same year. The global challenge of food security is even more critical in the Gulf region, where an estimated 85% of food is imported from abroad.

The pitfalls of this risky strategy were made apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic, when supply chains were catastrophically disrupted. Where farming is possible, the arid climate and extremely limited water resources make traditional agriculture unsustainable, requiring many communities to truck in fresh drinking water after available stores have been depleted in fields and greenhouses.

The time to adopt new and sustainable agricultural technologies in the Gulf and wider Middle East is now. According to the 2020 Global Agricultural Productivity Report, total productivity needs to increase 1.73% annually to double agricultural output by 2050 sustainably — without reaching these milestones, the “productivity gap” will grow, increasing the reliance on traditional farming and raising food prices in a vicious cycle that will increase food insecurity in the region. Innovation in agritech is critical to reduce import dependency and create sustainable supply chains.

“The cry for change, for sustainability, and for safer food alternatives has been getting louder, whether it be by the government, media, or consumers, who demonstrate the very real demand for technologies to address these very real challenges,” explains Sky Kurtz, co-founder and CEO of Pure Harvest Smart Farms. “A fast-growing population and growing tourism are increasing the demand for healthy food options, and consumers increasingly prefer locally-produced food.”