Saudi Arabia is teaming up with a Dutch greenhouse company to create “a synthetic climate to make the desert bloom.”

It’s carving out an area the size of some 15 soccer fields to form a horticulture oasis on the outskirts of Neom, an entirely new city being built on the Red Sea coast that extends out into the desert.

The commitment marks the biggest food—tech investment for a country whose largely arid landscape and extreme summer temperatures have long left it reliant on imports to supply most food.

The project is just the start, according to Dutch horticulturist Van Der Hoeven, whose $120 million contract with the Saudi government entails design and construction of two test facilities on NEOM’s outskirts, along with their service and operation over multiple years.

“We are building a synthetic climate where outdoor growing is difficult, with a goal for plants to yield produce year-round,” Van Der Hoeven’s Chief Executive Officer Michiel Schoenmaeckers said in an interview in Amsterdam.

Food security is a priority for the planners of NEOM, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s $500 billion project to turn an expanse of desert the size of Belgium into a high-tech region that may eventually host millions of people.

The urgency has only grown since the global pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exposed the fragility of supply chains and highlighted risks to food security in the Middle East.

Read the full article from HortiBiz here