For Saudi Arabia, food security has been a national strategic objective for many years, but the country must deal with a harsh climate, little available arable soil, and water scarcity, all of which hamper local food production. The Saudi Government acknowledges Dutch technology and knowledge as instrumental in finding successful solutions. At Saudi Agriculture, the largest B2B event for the agricultural sector in the Gulf region, the Dutch horticulture and water sectors joined forces and presented integrated solutions to achieve the food security and water-saving goals in Saudi Arabia's agricultural vision for 2030.
Saudi Agriculture’s focus this year was on sustainable water use, which was in line with the objectives of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture. The longstanding bilateral relationship between the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia, particularly in the fields of further developing food and agriculture was underlined by naming the Netherlands as ‘Country Partner of the Year’ at Saudi Agriculture. The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Riyadh, Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP), Dutch Greenhouse Delta, and Export Partner had set up a Netherlands Pavilion fully dedicated to highlighting Dutch Agri-Water-Energy-Food nexus solutions.
NWP is familiar with the network in the Gulf region
Besides being part of the Pavilion, consisting of nearly 40 companies, the Dutch horticultural and water companies shared their knowledge and experience in a conference programme and panel sessions, and actively participated in a substantive matchmaking programme and several network opportunities. The Dutch were invited to the KAUST Workshop for Saudi Food Futures, held at the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture in Riyadh, and to the Saudi Food Futures Gala Dinner, an exclusive event hosted by NEOM’s Food company Topian. William Janssen, CEO of Dutch innovator NWP-member Desolenator was one of the Dutch attendees. At Saudi Agriculture, Desolenator signed an MOU with the ACWA Power company, a major player in the energy and desalination arena, based in Riyadh. Under the MOU, they will jointly develop businesses in different fields, such as irrigation and zero-liquid discharge. He looks back with great enthusiasm at Saudi Agriculture. “Desolenator benefited from the matchmaking and networking activities that NWP arranged prior to and during Saudi Agriculture. The NWP professionals know their way around and are familiar with the network in Saudi Arabia, and can therefore easily make connections, which is very valuable to us.”
The NWP professionals know their way around and are familiar with the network in Saudi Arabia, and can therefore easily make connections, which is very valuable to us.
CEO of Desolenator
Truly circular water and cooling
Desolenator is the world's first solar thermal circular desalination company. Their solution harnesses the photons of the sun to turn seawater or brackish water into high-quality, pure water and causes zero harm to the planet. They own a patented technology that uses 100 percent solar energy to make clean water from seawater or brackish water, without using harmful chemicals, membranes, and toxic brine, as the brine is crystallized, leaving behind pure salt, which can be sold to industry. Janssen explains. “The answer to self-sufficiency in the Gulf region is sustainable high-tech agriculture, which requires essential inputs of water and refrigeration. Desolenator provides both ingredients, with zero liquid discharge. We recently partnered with Silal, Abu Dhabi’s leading food, agriculture, and technology company to build the first solar desalination plant for food production. This project deploys solar-powered desalination technology that turns saline water into pure water for irrigation and offers a sustainable cooling option for greenhouses. Janssen considers truly circular water and cooling as the missing link in making food self-sufficiency in the Gulf a reality. “We offer a turnkey solution that creates net-zero sustainable water for closed-loop greenhouse systems. We can tap saline inland aquifers, create perfect hydroponic irrigation water, cool plants down effectively, and produce zero brine.” Watch the video of this groundbreaking project. Silal is not the only Desolenator project in this region. A project with Dubai Electricity and Water Technology (DEWA), one of the world's leading water utilities, was finalised last year and is a great example of solar thermal desalination.
COP28: Accelerate solutions in the water-energy nexus
Janssen is looking forward to COP28, which be held from 30 November to 12 December. “We see COP28 as a culmination of all our work where we can join up and take steps to accelerate solutions for the water-energy nexus in the Gulf region.” One of Desolenator’s COP28 highlights will be the Dutch Government delegation visit to Silal. During COP28’s official opening on 7 December 2023, the delegation will see how high-quality tomatoes and strawberries can be grown in a desert sustainably. Other activities at COP28 will involve panel discussions and pitches on innovative solutions for a water-secure future. Read more on Desolenator’s website.