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

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.”


Hyatt Regency Riyadh bags global hygiene accreditation

Updated 22 October 2020

Hyatt Regency Riyadh bags global hygiene accreditation

Hyatt Regency Riyadh Olaya has become the first hotel in Saudi Arabia and one of the first hotels in the Middle East to be accredited by Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) STAR in September. GBAC is the gold standard for prepared facilities, and the accreditation further enhances the operational guidance and resources around colleague and guest safety at the hotel.

The accreditation builds on the Hyatt brand’s existing rigorous protocols, colleague training, support resources and a cross-functional working group of medical experts and industry professionals that contribute to various aspects of the hotel experience. Under the guidance of GBAC, a division of ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association, Hyatt Regency Riyadh Olaya has implemented the most stringent protocols for cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention in its facility.

“The world as we knew it has been changed by COVID-19, and when our guests are ready to travel again, we want to ensure them that they can feel confident that each aspect of our commitment is designed with their safety in mind, and that we’re putting their well-being first,” said Walid El-Awadly, general manager. “To do this, we must critically examine the hotel experience from every vantage point and think about what matters the most from our guests’ point of view — from rooms and lobby to spa and dining — bringing in the latest research, technology and innovations to make that happen. The GBAC accreditation is an important hygiene and cleanliness milestone, marking our purpose to care for people so they can be their best — always.”

The hotel received its GBAC STAR accreditation through a performance-based cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention program that focuses on establishing that the hotel environment is sanitary, safe and healthy. 

“GBAC STAR accreditation empowers facility owners and managers to assure workers, customers and key stakeholders that they have proven systems in place to maintain clean and healthy environments,” said GBAC Executive Director Patricia Olinger. “By taking this important step to pursue GBAC STAR, Hyatt Regency Riyadh Olaya has received third-party validation that it follows strict protocols for biorisk situations, thereby demonstrating its preparedness and commitment to operating safely,” she added. Furthermore, the hotel intends to complement this accreditation with regular internal and third-party auditing. 

Composed of international leaders in the field of microbial-pathogenic threat analysis, mitigation, response, and recovery, the GBAC provides training, guidance, accreditation, certification, crisis management assistance, and leadership to government, commercial and private entities looking to mitigate, quickly address, and/or recover from biological threats and real-time crises. 

As the cleaning industry’s only outbreak prevention, response and recovery accreditation, GBAC STAR helps organizations establish protocols and procedures, offers expert-led training and assesses a facility’s readiness for biorisk situations. 

The program verifies that Hyatt Regency Riyadh Olaya implements best practices to prepare for, respond to and recover from outbreaks and pandemics.