One of the signature characteristics of Bahrain’s roadsides and skyline are the infamous palm trees. Palm trees have existed as part of the GCC’s agricultural landscape since the beginning of civilisation in the region. Bahrain was specifically known in the Gulf for the abundance of palm trees, claiming the title “the land of a million palm trees”  at one point in time. Currently, the abundance of palm trees is being threatened, and one startup is on a mission to save them.
Meet Nakheel, the startup based in Bahrain that is tackling the ‘Red Palm Weevil’ infestation in the region. Nakheel uses advanced technology such as artificial intelligence to detect the infestation before it spreads to the rest of the tree and destroys its lifespan early on. This technology can potentially save thousands of palm trees across Bahrain and the region and contribute to the preservation of trees across farms in Bahrain.
Founders Mohamed Khalil and Khaled Metwally saw first-hand the damage done to palm trees and how it can affect farmers’ livelihoods. ‘Red Palm Weevil’ is the deadliest insect to infest palm trees across the world, specifically the Middle East. The insect is known to attack unhealthy palm trees, however can also infect healthy palm trees for no specific reason.  Unfortunately, early detection for the ‘Red Palm Weevil’ infestation is hard to encounter, causing the destruction of many palm trees and affecting date production. The trees may appear healthy, but suddenly collapse because of the infestation with no warning signs, deeming the hope of healing obsolete.
How Nakheel works
Nakheel was formed to create a system of early detection by using artificial intelligence to detect the presence of the insect at an earlier stage. Earlier detection will prevent the sudden collapse of palm trees and can save them across the Middle East.
The startup specialises in Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to detect early signs of the infestation through a comprehensive GIS database, that is updated daily to help track the exact locations of trees with an infestation. A hardware device is inserted in the palm trees that is connected to the internet and will notify farmers of any infestation through a mobile app, giving farmers direct access to data and analytics about their palm trees and their exact locations.
The low cost and low power devices can last for years using IoT chipsets that have long battery lives. Farmers will receive direct notifications through the mobile app if there has been an infestation, and they can save the palm trees before it’s too late.
Nakheel in the startup ecosystem
Nakheel has participated in Brinc Batelco IoT’s accelerator program in 2018, a 4-month program that is designed for early-stage connected hardware & IoT startups. The accelerator program offers mentorship, training, workshops, a co-working space, and the chance to win up to USD $60,000 in exchange for 8-14% equity of the startup. Nakheel also participated in the MIT Enterprise Forum (MITEF) Arab Startup Competition in 2019 as one of the semi-finalists in the Startup track.
Nakheel’s vision for the future
Nakheel is on a mission to save palm trees in Bahrain and the Middle East region, and they have recognized the importance of the historic and signature plant for society and the agricultural market. They have expanded their outreach to countries such as Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Spain due to the high demand of their tree-saving products. Nakheel is currently focusing on the GCC market but hopes to expand to various parts of Asia and Europe.