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Saudi Arabia introduces Sonbola initiative to boost agricultural startup ecosystem

The program aims to inspire Saudi entrepreneurs to launch startups focused on agriculture.

Saudi Arabia introduces Sonbola initiative to boost agricultural startup ecosystem
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

Currently, enterprises in Saudi Arabia’s environmental, water, and agricultural sectors make up only 1% of its startups, significantly lower than the global average of around 10%.

The kingdom’s Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture and the Agricultural Development Fund aims to surpass the global average. They plan these sectors to contribute nearly $1.07 billion to the non-oil gross domestic product by 2030.

In pursuit of this goal, Abdulrahman Al-Fadley, the Minister of Environment, Water, and Agriculture, and Abdullah Al-Sawaha, the Minister of Communications and Information Technology, inaugurated the startup financing program of the Agricultural Development Fund during a ceremony in Riyadh.

Named Sonbola, which translates to “ear of wheat” or “spike,” the program aims to cultivate an entrepreneurial community in agriculture, referencing the seeds found at the top of the cereal plant’s stem where grains develop.

As noted by the Saudi Press Agency, the program aims to support startups, attract venture capital, and implement initiatives such as business incubators, rural development projects, and food technology programs.

The statement added that the overarching goal is to foster economic growth and empower the kingdom’s youth to pursue entrepreneurship.

Deputy Minister of Environment, Water, and Agriculture Mansour Al-Mushaiti affirmed the country’s dedication to addressing challenges in environmental sustainability, natural resources, and achieving water and food security.

Abdulaziz Al-Malik, the ministry’s undersecretary for Research and Innovation, stressed the importance of environmental, water, and agricultural entrepreneurship programs. The Sonbola program will offer technological solutions for challenges within these sectors, aligning with the ministry’s innovation strategy.

The Innovation By Design Summit is in Doha on April 24. Attendance at the summit is by invitation only. Delegates can register here to receive their exclusive invite.

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