Analysis, Interviews, Opinions

Estidamah in drive to boost Saudi agriculture, food security

The National Research and Development Center for Sustainable Agriculture (Estidamah), a standalone not-for-profit research centre based in Saudi Arabia, has embarked on a digital transformation drive to enhance its capabilities, help boost the local farmer’s output and support the kingdom’s agriculture and food security and sustainability ambitions.
 
Estidamah conducts applied research, adopts and tests innovative technologies that will contribute to sustainable agriculture, with the main aim being to increase crop production per unit area, boost water-use efficiency, in addition to localising modern cultivation technologies.
 
As part of its digital transformation, the centre has engaged the services of IT services, consulting and business solutions organisation Hilal Computers for its next-generation digital infrastructure and cyber security services and Germany-based software solutions corporation SAP SE for ERP solutions.
 
As part of the order, Hilal Computers is providing Estidamah with Dell infrastructure comprising Dell VxRail servers for its data centres.
 
The tech refresh order involves installing new-generation systems and migrating all of the centre’s data into the new environment.
 
The company is also providing cyber security services to ensure Estidamah’s compliance with the Saudi National Cybersecurity Authority (NCA) regulations.
 
Spearheading Estimadah’s digital transformation drive is Haitham Alghamdi, Head of Information Technology, who has been tackling the challenges head on since he joined the government entity in June 2021.
 
Estidamah was previously run by Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (Sabic) and since 2019 has been transformed into a government entity.  The centre is located at King Saud University (KSU) in Riyadh Techno Valley.
 
“When I joined, we were facing a lot of challenges, because we were in the midst of a transition from being a Sabic-run entity to a government organisation. What we have been doing is evaluating the current systems and changing non-standard systems with a view to following the NCA regulations and enhancing our service and facilitating it,” Alghamdi tells TradeArabia.
 
Alghamdi is aiming to ensure that the IT infrastructure is designed to the highest standards and in compliance with NCA regulations as well as global IT requirements.
 
“At Estidamah, we have had to develop the ideas and strategies to be followed; pick the right vendors to provide consultation services and offer the best solution for the entity – and we have done this within six months; I could not have done that alone unless I had a team that was empowering me to do so.
 
“I'm trying to attain the highest level of performance and efficiency with reasonable prices. We have hired more skilled people to help us with the transformation. So we have two major vendors - Al Hilal for the bulk of the IT infrastructure and SAP for ERP solutions.
 
“Al Hilal engineers have the skills to make our vision comes through. They have been very helpful and are providing us consulting services to achieve the best solutions for the centre and make that transformation comes alive,” says Alghamdi.
 
Digital transformation of a research and development centre, which involved a lot of processes and paper work, has been a challenge; and so has been selecting the right solution to house that data - right from cyber security level to Dell VxRail servers - to ensure that Estidamah has a safe environment for its data that is easy and quick to access, he says.
 
“The digital transformation has in fact created ‘additional assistants’, who provide alerts, send emails, and if there is risk of a failure, provide a warning quickly to act. This is the beauty of the system which will create an optimised and smooth-operating work environment,” he adds.
 
Alghamdi is currently creating a data platform which can be accessed by numerous users.
Estidamah’s primary focus is on ensuring food security - by refining the farming technique, encouraging the best practices, assisting farmers, and providing a consultation and support.
 
Estidamah has also been creating awareness in the market about its mission and initiatives and its efforts are gaining recognition in the market with the centre now seeing a rising number of visitors – both from Saudi Arabia and globally.-TradeArabia News Service