KAUST’s Red Sea Farms closes $1.9m investment

Red Sea Farms is uniquely positioned to serve the growing food security needs of the Middle East.
Updated 14 May 2019
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KAUST’s Red Sea Farms closes $1.9m investment

Red Sea Farms, an agriculture technology spinout company from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) specializing in saltwater greenhouse technology, has secured $1.9 million of co-investment from the KAUST Innovation Fund and Research Products Development Co. (RPDC). 

Red Sea Farms is uniquely positioned to serve the growing food security needs of the Middle East. A combination of irrigation water scarcity and hot, arid lands are constant barriers to the region’s ability to achieve agricultural self-sufficiency. 

For Red Sea Farms co-founder and KAUST professor of plant science, Mark Tester, food security has always been central to his research. “The Middle East is one of the most water-scarce regions of the world. Here we often rely on unsustainable sources of water for irrigation, such as groundwater, which is being rapidly depleted, or desalinated water,” said Tester. 

“Desalinated water requires large amounts of energy to produce which is costly — at least $1 for every cubic meter -— and has a high environmental impact.” 

With its combination of engineering and plant science, Red Sea Farms has developed solutions to grow saltwater-tolerant crops in greenhouses cooled using saltwater. In their saltwater greenhouse, 80 to 90 percent of freshwater is substituted with saltwater, massively reducing both the water and carbon footprint of food production. The result is a system where both fresh water and energy requirements are reduced up to 10-fold.

The seed investment will enable the company to build a 2,000 square meter saltwater greenhouse on the KAUST campus in Saudi Arabia and realize plans to produce 50 tons of tomatoes annually by 2020. Building on six years of research at KAUST, the tomatoes that will be grown have significantly higher salinity tolerance. The resulting crops can be grown using up to 30 percent diluted seawater, which will save further freshwater; it also makes the fruits exceptionally sweet, with higher levels of vitamins and antioxidants. 

The new patent-pending system can be retrofitted to existing greenhouses, allowing for evaporative cooling with saltwater resources to save precious fresh water. The company is aiming to retrofit 5 percent of greenhouses in the Kingdom, offering a return on investment for farmers in less than two years. 

“RPDC and KAUST share common interests in commercializing intellectual property and supporting high-tech startups in Saudi Arabia. This investment marks a shining example of the transition of KAUST academic research to commercial application, with the potential to revolutionize the future of food production in Saudi Arabia and the region,” said Kevin Cullen, vice president of KAUST Innovation and Economic Development.

“RPDC has a strong track record of bringing technology to market in Saudi Arabia and looks forward to supporting Red Sea Farms as they scale,” said Abdulmohsen Almajnouni, RPDC CEO. “Red Sea Farms will use this investment to pilot their saltwater greenhouse cooling technology in the Kingdom. It will also enable them to scale-up their crop production of the saltwater tomatoes.”


Role of Indian engineers in KSA lauded at IEF meet

Updated 17 July 2019
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Role of Indian engineers in KSA lauded at IEF meet

Indian Engineers Forum (IEF) Jeddah Chapter recently held its 13th annual general meeting at Hotel Ramada Continental.

Ambassador of India to Saudi Arabia Dr. Ausaf Sayeed graced the event as chief guest and Consul General of India Noor Rahman Sheikh was guest of honor. IEF President Mohammed Sayeeduddin presided over the function.

Expressing appreciation for the activities of the forum, Ambassador Dr. Sayeed recalled its foundation in 2016 during his tenure as consul general of India in Jeddah.

He lauded Sayeeduddin, Amir Khan, Shuja Sheriff and other members and engineers for the activities of the forum and their contribution to the development of Saudi Arabia. Dr. Sayeed highlighted scarcity of water as an acute problem in the world in general and in India in particular. He shared his experience of interacting with engineers in the US, who developed a water condensation machine to extract water from humid air.

Consul General Noor Rahman Sheikh applauded IEF for its services to the engineering community in Saudi Arabia. He highlighted how the excellence of Indian engineers in each sector has impacted society. 

“Our zeal to be the best in whatever we do was demonstrated during last year’s Hajj. The mobile app developed by the Consul General of India is going to help the 200,000 pilgrims expected to come this year,” he said.

Amir Khan, founder and chairman of IEF, said IEF provides a platform for networking, career advancement, community service, and technology exchange. He urged Indian engineers to play a vital role in the development of Saudi Arabia, which he said would help strengthen the relations between India and the Kingdom.

Sayeeduddin thanked Dr. Sayeed for his support in the foundation of IEF. He announced that, having served as founding president for the last 13 years, he is now stepping down and the new president, unanimously elected, will be Khan Mustafa.

Nadeem Ahmed Ali, executive member of IEF, delivered a presentation on digital disruption.

Syed Nasir Khursheed, IEF general secretary, conducted the program.

Indian real estate advisory firm/ institutional channel partner 360 Realtors LLP participated in the event and were the main sponsors. A presentation covering major construction, residential and commercial projects in India was made by S. K. Vivek Kumar, head of international sales, 360 Realtors. Amit Hariyal also delivered a presentation on residential projects across the Indian cities of Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Pune. 

Abdul Rahman, general manager of TA Infra Projects, expressed happiness to be part of the IEF.

Khader Memon made a presentation titled “Special Investment Plan.”

The chief guest, guest of honor and sponsors were presented mementoes as a token of appreciation by the IEF president and executive committee. This was followed by the release of the annual magazine of the forum, Spectrum 2019, edited by Muazzam Sayeed.

A lively session of quiz was conducted by Munnawar Amafh. 

The event was attended by a number of guests from across the Kingdom, including Abdul Haseeb Hazari, Danish Ghafoor, Siadat Ali Khan, Shameem Kausar and Ahmed Omais.

The program started with a recitation of the Holy Qur’an by Talha Khan. Ashraf Nawaz Qureshi, IEF treasurer, welcomed the guests.

IEF Vice President Abu Bakar Sherkhan introduced the chief guest while Mohammed Shoebuddin, IEF chief coordinator, presented a vote of thanks.