Saudi Arabia Grand Prix deal, Jeddah circuit, $900m deal

Formula 1 has confirmed Saudi Arabia will host a Grand Prix for the first time next year.

A ten-year agreement between the country and Formula 1 will see a new track brought to life on the banks of the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

The Kingdom is becoming an increasingly big player in the world of international sporting events and it has now scored it biggest ever annual sporting event.

The Sun reports Saudi Arabia will become the 33rd country to host a round of the Formula One World Championship when it showcases the race next year.

Jeddah will be the venue for the Grand Prix until a purpose-built track at Qiddiyah is completed, with it not expected to be ready until 2023.

F1 have announced that the final track design for the 2021 circuit is yet to be decided, though organisers want it to take place at night under the lights.

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It comes as reports emerged that race organisers have agreed to a hosting fee worth more than $900 million across the duration of the deal.

The Daily Mail reports the £50million-per-year deal ($90m) could even be extended beyond 10 years.

In a year when the rule book for annual hosting fees paid by host cities to Formula 1 have been thrown out the window as a result of the coronavirus, the $900 million deal is an absolute monster.

According to reports, Formula 1 this year had to slash the hosting fees to secure Grand Prix venues this year, after the sport raked in more than $US600m last year at an average of $US29m per race, according to Forbes.

However, the mega-rich deal has come under fire with Amnesty International and other human rights groups calling for drivers to boycott the event.

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly come under fire from human rights groups for systemic human rights abuses.

A spokesman for the parent company of Formula 1, Liberty Media, responded to the complaints in a statement on Friday: “For decades Formula One has worked hard to be a positive force everywhere it races, including bringing economic, social, and cultural benefits.

“Sports like Formula One are uniquely positioned to cross borders and cultures to bring countries and communities together to share the passion and excitement of incredible competition and achievement.

“We take our responsibilities very seriously and have made our position on human rights and other issues clear to all our partners and host countries who commit to respect human rights in the way their events are hosted and delivered.”

Speaking of the news, Chairman and CEO of Formula 1 Chase Carey said: “We are excited to welcome Saudi Arabia to Formula 1 for the 2021 season and welcome their announcement following speculation in recent days.

“Saudi Arabia is a country that is rapidly becoming a hub for sports and entertainment with many major events taking place there in recent years and we are very pleased that Formula 1 will be racing there from next season.

“The region is hugely important to us and with 70 per cent of the population of Saudi being under 30 we are excited about the potential to reach new fans and bring our existing fans around the world exciting racing from an incredible and historic location.

“We will be publishing our full provisional 2021 calendar in the coming weeks and this will be submitted to the World Motor Sport Council for approval.”

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Pollinating robot looking to shake up $900m greenhouse tomato industry

An Israeli company that has created an autonomous pollinating robot has started its first trials in Australia.

Arugga AI Farming is hoping its technology can transform Australia’s greenhouse farming sector, especially greenhouse tomatoes, which are currently pollinated by hand.

Chief executive Iddo Geltner said after successful trials in Israel, the company had targeted Australia because it did not have bumblebees.

“Around the world, pollination in greenhouses is typically performed using commercially produced bumblebee hives, but these bees don’t pollinate well in certain conditions, and they’re actually banned in Australia,” he told ABC Rural.

“It autonomously drives along the rows, finds flowers that are ready for pollination using artificial intelligence, and sends air pulses to vibrate the flowers in a very specific manner to imitate buzz pollination as performed by bumblebees.”

The majority of tomatoes produced in Australia are grown in greenhouses.(Supplied:)

Arugga’s pollinating robot is being tested at Costa Group’s multi-million-dollar greenhouse facility in Guyra, New South Wales.

Mr Geltner said the company would focus initially on pollinating tomatoes but was also looking at opportunities to improve yields for other greenhouse crops.

“The greenhouse sector is huge and growing around the world at a steady pace of more than 5 per cent a year,” he said.

“As far as we know, greenhouse farming is the fastest growing [agricultural] sector in Australia, so we’ve started with Costa in Guyra, but later on will look to work with other growers.”

Eytan Heller and Iddo Geltner
Eytan Heller and Iddo Geltner, the co-founders of Arugga AI Farming.(Supplied)

Industry ripe for innovation

Jonathan Eccles from Protected Cropping Australia said the greenhouse tomato industry was worth around $900 million a year in Australia and continued to expand.

He said any innovation to improve pollination would be welcomed by the industry.

“We don’t have [bumblebees] in mainland Australia, so we have to use alternative ways and that’s by manually pollinating the tomato flowers using a vibrating wand,” he said.

“So someone has to go around every few days and touch the stem of the tomato, vibrate them and shake the pollen onto the stigma of the flower.

He said researchers had been investigating the potential of other bees for pollination, particularly native bees, but felt the industry was ripe for some innovation.

“Robotics in greenhouses is certainly an exciting development, because with the high cost of labour in this country, manually pollinating is expensive.

“With the challenges we’ve got pollinating using the methods we use now through the vibrating wand, if we can find another method, like a robot, that’s effective and doesn’t do any damage to the flowers, that would be a great innovation.”

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Futuristic greenhouse grows crops using seawater and sunshine

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