Natufia’s kitchen garden wins KPMG’s Tech Innovator Competition

11 October 2021 3 min. read

KPMG has unveiled the winner of its Tech Innovator Competition in Saudi Arabia, handing the top prize to agri-technology innovator Natufia.

The inaugural edition of the competition showcased the most promising technology-driven start-ups and scale-ups from all corners of the Kingdom. In determining the overall winner, KPMG’s panel of judges assessed six factors of ‘success’ – innovation and disruption, market potential, customer adoption, marketing traction, long-term potential, and quality of the pitch.

“Amid innovative ideas and strong pitches from all contestants, Natufia was chosen as the winner,” revealed Samer Abdallah, a partner at KPMG in Saudi Arabia. Founded in 2014, Jeddah-based Natufia is an already award-winning company that is known among inners circles as the ‘Nespresso for homegrown plants and herbs’.

Natufia's kitchen garden wins KPMG's Tech Innovator Competition

With Natufia’s fridge-size ‘smart garden’ solution, people can grow fresh vegetables (for example: tomato’s), leafy greens (for example: lettuce and rocket) and herbs (for example: coriander, oregano and thyme) all year round – in their own home. Using hydroponic technology, the process from planting through to growing and harvesting has been made as controlled and simple as possible, providing a relatively straightforward solution for local produce.

“With our automated kitchen garden, you can grow what you love effortlessly, no matter the time of year or where you live,” explained Duaa Albalawi, Chief Botanical Officer at Natufia. “We are excited to be named the winner of KPMG’s Tech Innovator Competition in Saudi Arabia and we look forward to share our concept with a global audience.” 

Albalawi is referring to KPMG’s Global Tech Innovator Competition which takes place next month in Lisbon (Portugal). At the event, the winners of twenty country editions (which also includes the winners of the Bahrain and the UAE contests) will come together to battle for a worldwide prize.

In KPMG’s jury report, Natufia stood out for a number of factors. For starters, it provides a solution to a mass audience challenge in Saudi Arabia: gaining easy and affordable access to high-quality and fresh produce. By bringing an effective solution into people’s own homes, Natufia has the potential to disrupt the segment, and deliver major impact to people’s health and lives.

In addition, giving people more control over produce can improve the food supply-demand equation, ultimately resulting in reduced food waste (globally the cost of food waste is immense, at over $1.2 trillion per year according to Boston Consulting Group estimates). Meanwhile, the technology also contributes to lower environmental impacts by reducing packaging, pollution, food miles and toxins. 

Originally founded in Estonia (which similar to Saudi Arabia doesn’t have the ideal climate to grow its own organic greens), Natufia expanded into Saudi Arabia earlier this year with the help of a $3.5 million financial investment led by KAUST (the startup is based in the KAUST Research and Technology Park). 

The firm however has always had an intricate link with the region. Natufia is named after the Natufians – claimed to be the first sedentary farmers, who lived way back around 12,000 BC in the area covered today by Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Syria. 

The other finalists of KPMG’s competition in Saudi Arabia were: BRAQ Aerospace, Juleb, Digital Pharma Company, Mawidy and Tarjama. “The response to the competition was astounding, demonstrating the thriving and flourishing technology community in Saudi Arabia,” concluded Abdallah.