Case Study: Sector Innovation – Oman

Transformation of the food production system in Oman

Client Overview:

We were tasked by government ministries of the Sultanate of Oman to evaluate the potential for growth and investment in industrial sectors beyond the dominant oil and gas sector.

The ultimate objective was to recommend a range of business and investment opportunities in the selected sectors to stimulate the initiation of start-ups, development of SMEs and the expansion of existing businesses in the sultanate. We were also asked to provide recommended policy frameworks and initiatives to enable these ambitions.


Oman has a national priority to diversify its economy, such that oil and gas cease to be the dominant engine of growth.

The nation is conscious of its reliance on imported goods, which in some sectors has wider consequences than economic trade balance. In the food sector, the nation wishes to close the gap between production and consumption; a matter of national security in an uncertain world.

Agricultural production has been suffering from degradation of fertility, salination of aquifers and pressure on water resources.

Our Approach:

  1. Local Scouting: Developing an understanding of the local situation by scouting for relevant statistics, conducting interviews with key players and mapping the key characteristics of the Omani sectors. Our findings revealed a mostly arid, desert climate with only 4.8% of land in agricultural production, which together with fisheries contributed only 2.2% to the GDP.
  2. International Scouting: Identifying parallels between the local Omani context and international best practice. Understanding long-term megatrends affecting the food and beverage sector as well as technologies for food production, and agricultural practices for the future. Benchmarking led us to develop an interest in the regenerative agriculture movement.
  3. Stakeholder Engagement: Interviews and meetings to feedback findings, discuss emerging topics, understand perceptions from across the sector and pin down assumptions.
  4. Strategic Mapping: A workshop and offline analysis to develop a holistic picture of the complex system, and establish the real issues behind the fuzzy complexity.
  5. Synthesis, Analysis and Recommendations: Applying innovation tools to build a body of insights, problems to be solved and defining Oman’s unfair advantage, which guided recommendations for policies, investments and business opportunities.
Palm trees growing in a desert land Outcomes: An achievable vision for Oman where agricultural production is increased, not by percentage points but by multiples to become a net exporter of food. And at the same time, to restore biodiversity, sequester carbon, increase employment and economic output.

Moving Forward: Oman has the opportunity to leapfrog other GCC nations by avoiding the temptation to over-prioritise investments in high-tech industrial agriculture. Instead, lessons from its agricultural heritage, combined with appropriate use of new technologies could work with natural systems to green the desert.

Conclusion: The SI structured approach to sector innovation resulted in surprising findings that opened up the possibility of transforming and extending food production to an extent far greater than anticipated.