General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean - GFCM

KAUST, MEWA and the GFCM working hand in hand for algae innovation


King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) brought together last Monday world class research and industry experts to the International Workshop of Algae Innovation. Co-organized by the GFCM and Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture (MEWA) following the Cooperating non-Contracting Party status granted to Saudi Arabia in November 2021 by the GFCM, the one-day workshop focused on the progress made in microalgae and macroalgae culture and commercialization and future potential for growth in the MENA region. 

Participants, speakers and organizers of the Algae cultivation and innovation workshop, from KAUST, MEWA and the GFCM in front of the KAUST main building ©GFCM/KAUST Innovation

Algae biomass production is a fast-growing biotechnology sector. There has been an appreciable increase in both knowledge in the field and industries using algae derivatives in their products. In particular, the metabolites obtained from algae, which include essential fatty acids and neutral lipids, have a variety of commercial applications. Examples of these use-cases can be found in human and animal nutrition, pharmaceutical and cosmetic applications, as well as energy such as biofuels.  

The International Workshop of Algae Innovation, hosted at KAUST, was held with the objective of increasing awareness on the potential of algae cultivation in the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Red Sea regions. In addition to presentations on the current progress in this area, the workshop identified important research and commercialization challenges. An important goal was to highlight the industry’s potential for growth in the region. By promoting networking and collaboration between relevant research institutes, the event aimed at attracting future investors in microalgae and macroalgae aquaculture in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea basins. 

“KAUST Innovation is judged on its ability to positively impact Saudi Arabia’ Vision 2030 goals and diversification of the economy. The development of algae technologies supports these goals and provides opportunities for job creation in a new sector. We invest with our partners to develop technology relevant to the kingdom and algae is a perfect example of what we can do. We believe algae has the opportunity to establish a new industry, create jobs, reduce imports, ensure food security and even positively impact climate change and reduce GHG emissions” said Mr. Mark Hull, the Chief Operating Officer of KAUST Beacon Development.  

Dr. Ali Alshaikhi, the CEO of National Livestock and Fisheries Development Program opening the workshop ©GFCM/KAUST Innovation

KAUST Beacon Development, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology's consultancy arm, has been working with MEWA to develop long-term solutions to Saudi Arabia’s sustainable food needs through aquaculture and algae development. This aligns with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. The University has already recently launched a pilot project at the KAUST Research and Technology Park and is on track to deliver a four-hectare proof of concept later this year.  

Seaweed production in regions including Europe and the wider Near East has expanded with more attention being paid to specific industrial applications such as the production of bioplastics and the use of high-value metabolites in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. 

“Saudi Arabia holds and offers to the world untapped potentials and promising investment opportunities to create renewable and sustainable industries through Development of Algal Biotechnology program overseen by MEWA's National Fisheries Development Program. In collaboration with local and global stakeholders, DAB-KSA seeks to overcome constraints and challenges in algae industry with the aim of transforming pilot -scale algae production into commercialization phase by promoting growth, microalgae biomass increase, genetic engineering development to improve its potential as a future source of renewable biomass products” said Dr. Ali Alshaikhi, the CEO of National Livestock and Fisheries Development Program. 

The commercial culture of microalgae and macroalgae constitutes an integral part of the GFCM 2030 Strategy for sustainable fisheries and aquaculture in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. The GFCM is promoting algae farming as an accelerator for sustainable growth, marine conservation, innovation and livelihoods in communities across the Mediterranean and the Black Sea region. 

“As part of our work towards the blue transformation of Mediterranean and Black Sea aquaculture, we are focusing on algae farming as it offers potential for enhancing food security and livelihoods, mitigating climate change and supporting the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals” said Mr Housam Hamza, GFCM Aquaculture Officer. 

Aquaculture Officer, Houssam Hamza presenting at the International Workshop of Algae Innovation ©GFCM/KAUST Innovation

About King Abdullah University of Science and Technology 

Established in 2009, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is a graduate research university devoted to finding solutions for some of the world’s most pressing scientific and technological challenges in the areas of food, water, energy and the environment. With 19 research areas related to these themes and state of the art labs, KAUST has created a collaborative and interdisciplinary problem-solving environment, which has resulted in over 11,000 published papers to date.

With over 100 different nationalities living, working and studying on campus, KAUST has brought together the best minds and ideas from around the world with the goal of advancing science and technology through distinctive and collaborative research. KAUST is a catalyst for innovation, economic development and social prosperity in Saudi Arabia and the world. For additional information, visit: 

About MEWA  

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture (MEWA) is responsible for the regulation and implementation of all aspects of the country’s policies for the environmental, water and agricultural sectors. 

The Ministry implements environmental, water and agricultural plans and programs across the Kingdom with a focus on sustainability and value creation. It has widened its contribution to the national economy through numerous programs especially in the areas of food security, water conservation and environmental protection. Within these vital industries, it has created millions of value-added sustainable jobs for the citizens of Saudi Arabia. 

About the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM)   

The GFCM is a regional fisheries management organization, operating within the framework of FAO, whose authority extends over all marine waters of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Its main objective is to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of living marine resources, as well as the sustainable development of aquaculture. It plays a critical role in fisheries governance, taking binding decisions for the management of stocks across the basin. 

The GFCM works across five subregions, each covered by a technical unit. The technical units promote cooperation and facilitate dialogue on key challenges, providing countries with strategic and technical assistance to meet their commitments to the GFCM.