The food system, both in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and globally, is one of the most unsustainable of all human activities, consuming 66% of global water supplies and 30% of global energy supplies, occupying 50% of all land used by humans, and emitting 33% of all greenhouse gases (GHG). These practices must change, locally and globally, and such change must be led by data-driven science and logical, future-focused innovation. KAUST is perfectly positioned to lead this drive for KSA, the region and the world.



The 10-year goal of the Center for Desert Agriculture (CDA) is to study, test and implement safe, secure and sustainable crop production systems for KSA. These systems will produce and deliver fresh, nutritious and high-value crops to the people of KSA with a reduced environmental footprint (e.g., less water, fertilizer, pesticides, and GHG emissions), thereby promoting healthy lifestyles and a clean environment for generations to come. The CDA’s goals align directly with many of the United Nation’s (UN) Sustainable Development Goals and KSA’s Vision 2030 for national transformation.

To accomplish this ambitious task, the CDA will take a multi-pronged approach to develop innovative field and greenhouse production systems for crop plants through: 1) directed and applied research, 2) graduate education, 3)extension, outreach, and community engagement, and 3) government, industrial, and academic partnerships.



The mission of the Center for Desert Agriculture is to foster and deliver innovations that make a significant impact on sustainable agriculture in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by 2030. To achieve this mission, we will:

  1. Study, engineer, and implement sustainable plant-based cropping systems in production and community field and greenhouse ecosystems through partnerships with government, academia and industry
  2. Teach and train KAUST students and others to utilize and improve our sustainable plant-based cropping systems
  3. Translate basic biological and engineering discoveries from KAUST and elsewhere into practical solutions for sustainable agriculture



CDA's Vision for 2030

  • By 2030, The CDA will be a leader, innovator and essential partner for the advancement of sustainable agriculture and food security in desert ecosystems in KSA and the world.
  • By 2030, The CDA will have lead the transformation of how high-value crops are grown and distributed throughout KSA, thereby improving the quality of life and incomes of KSA citizens.
  • By 2030, The CDA will have trained scientists, leaders and entrepreneurs in sustainable agriculture in desert ecosystems.
  • By 2030, The CDA will have inspired the next generation of Saudi youth to embrace sustainable plant-based agriculture and environmental protection in their country.


Our strategic goals

  1. Develop innovative solutions for sustainable plant-based agriculture in hot, dry and saline desert ecosystems, and deliver these solutions through education, technology transfer and economic development.

  2. Empower and inspire the young minds of Saudi Arabia with the knowledge, training and confidence to tackle what is arguably the most significant problem of this century: "How can we sustainably feed our rapidly growing population?"