Scientists at the University of Plymouth are teaming up with colleagues in Saudi Arabia to try and identify ways to help the country reduce its reliance on crop imports.
Academics in the School of Biological and Marine Sciences have signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Jeddah to explore joint projects that would allow plants to be grown in controlled conditions in the Middle East.
The link has been partly facilitated through a grant from the British Council, and will aim to replicate a project at the University, Plant Factory Cornwall.
Funded through Agri-Tech Cornwall, Plant Factory Cornwall aims to use artificial lighting powered by solar energy to create the best possible conditions for fruit and vegetables to flourish.
Based within a multi-tier production unit, its LED lights can be individually programmed to change lighting within the unit and give a precise light recipe for each species.
Scientists from the University of Jeddah attended the launch of that initiative in Plymouth, and are now beginning to examine the potential for it to be replicated in the Saudi Arabia.
Mick Fuller, Professor of Plant Physiology at the University, said:
“As it stands, the Middle East is less than 20 per cent self-sufficient in food production. So any technology that allows us to help improve that would be beneficial. Our own Plant Factory could be replicated on any scale, which has the potential to be perfect in a region with such a combination of sunlight and space.”
Professor Omar Almaghrabi, from the University of Jeddah, added:
“This is a very important area of research and it meets the aims of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. The Plant Factory could be a key development in helping countries with harsh conditions to improve sustainability, control the conditions for growing food and pharmaceutical crops and reduce the use of water.”