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Inauguration of a scientific forum on vertical farming and Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) at the Royal Scientific Society

Under the Patronage of HRH Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan, President of the Royal Scientific Society, RSS inaugurated a Scientific Forum entitled ‘Controlled Vertical Agriculture: A Tool to Contribute in Food Security in Amidst of Climate Change’.

Specialists, academics and farmers from Jordan, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq and Syria participated virtually and/or face-to-face in the forum. Eng. Ra’fat Assi, Vice-President of the Royal Scientific Society/Executive Director of the Sustainable Solutions Sector at RSS said that the Royal Scientific Society always seeks to search for sustainable and innovative solutions to confront local and global challenges, especially challenges related to climate change and water scarcity. Eng Assi clarified that RSS achieves this through its various sectors, accredited laboratories, and through consulting with a large group of researchers and technicians in various scientific fields.

Dr. Mick Fuller from the University of Plymouth spoke about some of the ongoing research outputs at the University of Plymouth, which is related to Controlled Environment Agriculture. Dr. Fuller concentrated on the role of LED lighting in changing the components and concentrations of some substances in plants, especially medicinal plants.

On his part, Dr. Abdullah Al-Rajhi from King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia (KACST) highlighted the importance of vertical agriculture in the production of some important crops in environmentally fragile environments. He also touched on the challenges of Arab food security, such as water scarcity, climatic changes, and large urban sprawl.

On the other hand, Dr. Hail Rihan from the University of Plymouth presented the objectives of the Controlled Environment Agriculture, the ongoing research in this field, and the future plans for this type of agriculture, stressing the need for regional and global cooperation to create a platform that brings together interested professionals and researchers in the field. Dr. Hail also pointed out that the current food systems may not be able to deal with climatic changes and emergency conditions, and thus they may not be able to meet the increasing nutritional needs of the population.

Dr. Paul Challinor and Mr. Nick Bateman from the United Kingdom discussed the Plant Factories in Britain and the world, focusing on research and development in this field during the past decade and the prospective research.

The Dean of the Faculty of Technological Agriculture at Al-Ahliyya Amman University, the President of Jordan Society for Scientific Research, Entrepreneurship and Creativity, His Excellency Dr. Rida Al-Khawaldeh, spoke about the emergence of controlled agriculture in Jordan, starting with the greenhouse and ending with smart vertical environmentally-controlled farming. Dr. Al-Khawaldeh emphasized the necessity of adapting the concepts of environmentally-controlled agriculture to support small farmers, thus enabling them to withstand environmental and market shocks.

It is worth mentioning here that this forum is part of a project implemented by the Water, Environment and Climate Change Centre at the Royal Scientific Society in cooperation with the University of Plymouth and funded by the British Academy of Engineering within the Frontiers Champions Program. The project aims to identify the challenges and opportunities associated with Controlled Environment Agriculture and its role in achieving food security in light of climate change.

The forum included a virtual visit to the experiment of CEA and vertical farming in King Abdulaziz City in Riyadh, in addition to a presentation of the Green Wall project developed by the Jordanian engineer Saeed Al-Bawwab.

While some participants attended the forum virtually, others attended in person. Among those were H.E Dr. Mahmoud Al-Duwairi, the former Minister of Agriculture, and Engineer Nabil Assaf, the representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, in addition to specialists, experts, civil society institutions, farmers and entrepreneurs.