Startup of the Week: Red Sea Farms in Saudi Arabia aims to provide viable solutions to water scarcity

Startup of the Week: Red Sea Farms in Saudi Arabia aims to provide viable solutions to water scarcity
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Mark Tester, right, highlighted how KAUST provided the perfect environment for researchers to pursue their passion. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Startup of the Week: Red Sea Farms in Saudi Arabia aims to provide viable solutions to water scarcity
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Mark Tester highlighted how KAUST provided the perfect environment for researchers to pursue their passion. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Startup of the Week: Red Sea Farms in Saudi Arabia aims to provide viable solutions to water scarcity
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Mark Tester highlighted how KAUST provided the perfect environment for researchers to pursue their passion. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Startup of the Week: Red Sea Farms in Saudi Arabia aims to provide viable solutions to water scarcity
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Mark Tester highlighted how KAUST provided the perfect environment for researchers to pursue their passion. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Startup of the Week: Red Sea Farms in Saudi Arabia aims to provide viable solutions to water scarcity
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Mark Tester highlighted how KAUST provided the perfect environment for researchers to pursue their passion. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 29 October 2019

Startup of the Week: Red Sea Farms in Saudi Arabia aims to provide viable solutions to water scarcity

Startup of the Week: Red Sea Farms in Saudi Arabia aims to provide viable solutions to water scarcity
  • Red Sea Farms use hydroponic farming to grow their crops

Red Sea Farms is a startup from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) that uses agricultural engineering to process seawater and deploy it in an economically sensible way to reduce the huge use of freshwater in agriculture.
It was co-founded more than 18 months ago by professor of plant sciences at KAUST, Mark Tester, who is also the head of the food sector at NEOM, and agricultural engineer Dr. Ryan Lefers.
Lefers explained that the company uses saltwater to cool its greenhouse, which saves a lot of freshwater. “Based on the models we’ve run, we can save up to 90 percent of freshwater by using saltwater in its place. Also, we don’t have to desalinate the water, so we’re saving a lot of energy,” he told Arab News. “Thanks to the work of my co-founder, Prof. Mark Tester, and his group, we have plants that are being developed to grow using saltwater for irrigation,” he said.
Lefers is passionate about making an impact in the world.
“What gets me up in the morning is thinking about how we can solve some of the big problems that the world faces, and a big problem right now is how are we going to feed everyone in light of diminishing resources. One of those is freshwater,” he explained.
He added humans use about 70-80 percent of our freshwater for agriculture, and in Saudi Arabia the figure is higher, despite limited supplies — much has to be generated from seawater. “What I’m really excited about is contributing to somehow breaking food free from its dependency on freshwater.”
Tester said the problem the Middle East faces is a lack of water and its sustainability.


“Sure, we’ve got wonderful farms in places like Tabuk, for example, but it’s not sustainable in the long term because it’s using groundwater which is being extracted at a much higher rate than it is being replenished,” Tester said.
“We need to reduce our use of freshwater in Saudi Arabia and the whole region. By substituting a large fraction of our freshwater consumed for agriculture with sea or other salty water, we can really reduce our freshwater use in this region, and that’s a pretty good contribution.”
Tester highlighted how KAUST provided the perfect environment for researchers to pursue their passion.
“It all starts with research and curiosity, and this is very important. Places like KAUST enable us to do research because we’re interested in understanding the basis, the mechanisms for processes and applying that research,” he said.
“For me, I love understanding — and I must have been a very annoying child, always asking ‘why’ — and KAUST enables us to ask those questions, but in a way that the answers are going to be useful for the Kingdom and the region. That really is fantastic for me.”
He added that Red Sea Farms was a classic type of collaboration between two very different areas of KAUST activities — plant science and of engineering.
“I have huge respect for the engineering done by Ryan because it is going to make a huge impact. One amazing side benefit from our research — which, I must admit, we didn’t predict — is that when you grow tomatoes in this brackish water they taste better. So we’re able to deliver high quality, tasty and more nutritious tomatoes for the Kingdom.”
Red Sea Farms use hydroponic farming to grow their crops.
“What we have is a system where the plants are being physically supported by the clay beads, but the water is coming up and then flooding and draining away.”
He explained that water was pumped from storage tanks into the plants, which then drained back into the tanks.
“I call this type of approach we’re taking ‘beyond organic’. A lot of the organic rules in Europe say: ‘If it’s not in soil then it’s not organic.’ For me, what’s much more important is not to define something as organic or not, but to calculate whether what we are doing —and I say calculate — is sustainable. What we are doing has to be more sustainable for the planet. Because it’s our responsibility to leave the planet in a better condition for our children than when we found it,” said Tester.

 


Saudi Arabia’s Tawakkalna app operating in 75 countries worldwide

Saudi Arabia’s Tawakkalna app operating in 75 countries worldwide
A man displays his details on his mobile phone using the Tawakkalna app as he enters a mall in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (REUTERS)
Updated 13 June 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Tawakkalna app operating in 75 countries worldwide

Saudi Arabia’s Tawakkalna app operating in 75 countries worldwide
  • An app launched last year by Saudi authorities to help track coronavirus infections is available in 75 countries worldwide
  • The Tawakkalna app was recently updated to show someone’s COVID-19 health status, showing them to be vaccinated or infected, and now functions as a “passport”

JEDDAH: Countries in the first phase of the app’s international availability include: Kuwait, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Algeria, Sudan, Somalia, Morocco, Tunisia, Djibouti, Libya, Egypt, Mauritania, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, South Africa, Lebanon, Nigeria, India, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Bangladesh, Portugal, Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, the UK, Norway, Austria, the US, Japan, Greece, Spain, Estonia, Italy, Ireland, Iceland, Brunei, Belgium, Poland, Germany, Singapore, Switzerland, France, Finland, Cyprus, Kazakhstan, Croatia, Canada, Latvia, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Malta, Malaysia, Monaco, New Zealand, Netherlands, Maldives, and Azerbaijan.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs office in Jazan temporarily closed the Budaiya Mosque in Abu Arish governorate after it was confirmed that the imam had COVID-19.

Field teams undertook preventive and precautionary measures, including sterilization operations and comprehensive maintenance, in preparation for reopening the mosque and receiving worshippers at a later date.

The ministry noted the keenness of worshippers and their active role in reporting mosques that did not comply with health and safety instructions and failed to implement preventive measures.

FASTFACTS

464,780 Total cases

446,960 Recoveries

It asked everyone to report future similar incidents by calling 1933.

Saudi Arabia on Saturday reported 16 more coronavirus-related fatalities, taking the overall death toll to 7,553.

There were 1,077 new cases, bringing the total number of infections 464,780. There are 10,267 active cases, of which 1,562 are in a critical condition.

Of the newly recorded cases, 348 were in Makkah, 225 were in Riyadh, 149 were in the Eastern Province, and 69 were in Madinah.

Authorities said a further 906 patients had recovered from the disease, increasing the total number of recoveries to 446,960.

The country has so far carried out more than 20.27 million PCR tests, with 75,059 carried out in the past 24 hours.

Testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have dealt with hundreds of thousands of people since the onset of the pandemic.

Taakad centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or only mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual.

Tetamman clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.

Appointments for both services can be made via the ministry’s Sehhaty app.

Saudi Arabia has vaccinated 15,633,787 people to date.

 


Makkah governor inaugurates prototype of new public transport system

Makkah governor inaugurates prototype of new public transport system
Updated 12 June 2021

Makkah governor inaugurates prototype of new public transport system

Makkah governor inaugurates prototype of new public transport system

 

JEDDAH: Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal on Saturday inaugurated the prototype of a public transport bus in Makkah.

This will serve citizens as well as pilgrims and visitors of the holy city by introducing an integrated service system in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

On the sidelines of the Digital Region Projects Exhibition, Prince Khaled was briefed on the operational mechanism of the new transport system, which aims to accommodate needs resulting from the expected growth in the population in Makkah and in the number of visitors to the Grand Mosque and the holy sites.

The new transport system aims to support economic development in Makkah and provide easy access to the Grand Mosque and other mosques in the city as well as educational and health facilities, commercial and recreational areas, and contribute to reducing pollution and protecting the environment by reducing dependence on small cars.

The bus network consists of two stages. The first phase will consist of 12 lines and about 83 stops in which medium-sized buses are used, while the other five lines will be express lines with dedicated tracks, a length of 172 km and about 342 stops, in which buses of greater capacity and frequency are used.

The project also includes operating more than 400 buses, including 240 regular buses that can accommodate up to 85 seats, and 160 buses with a capacity of 125 seats. This is in addition to the construction of a bus accommodation station, which includes a control building, drivers’ management building, gas station, light maintenance workshop, bus washing and maintenance station, heavy maintenance workshop, bus stops and drivers’ housing facilities.

The buses are equipped with environment protection systems that reduce Euro-4 carbon emissions, include protection systems through surveillance cameras inside and outside the bus, a collision-avoidance system, electronic screens showing the destination to be reached, as well as a hydraulic system to help people with special needs, and places for strollers and people with special needs.

The vehicles will also have Internet service (Wi-Fi) and an audio-visual system displaying trip information to passengers. Buses will operate for an average of 22 hours a day.

 


Saudi Arabia’s Jouf Olive Festival celebrates prosperity of ‘blessed’ tree

Saudi Arabia’s Jouf Olive Festival celebrates prosperity of ‘blessed’ tree
Saudi cities have become centers of olive oil production. (SPA)
Updated 13 June 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Jouf Olive Festival celebrates prosperity of ‘blessed’ tree

Saudi Arabia’s Jouf Olive Festival celebrates prosperity of ‘blessed’ tree
  • Over 140,000 tons of fruit produced in KSA annually, and 120,000 tons of oil
  • Farmers from nine countries invited to share industry experiences with local producers

MAKKAH: The Jouf Olive Festival celebrates the crop, and this year, in its 14th year, hosted 45 farmers representing the region all competing for the Prince Faisal bin Nawaf Award, worth SR500,000 ($133,000) and given by the prince, who is also the regional governor.

The festival also hosted, for the first time, farmers from the US, Spain, Argentina, Italy, China, Palestine, Jordan, Morocco and Egypt, to share their experiences of the industry.

Omar Al-Hamwan, director general of public relations and media and the official spokesperson for Jouf Municipality, said Saudi Arabia’s olive production amounts to 120 tons annually, and there is a specialized committee to monitor the volume of sales at the end of the festival and to crown the winners of the award.

He added that no oil could be entered into the festival unless it was certified and tested by the laboratory of Jouf Municipality, to ensure its quality, acidity and suitability for human consumption.

Other Saudi cities have also become centers of olive oil production, he said, such as Tabuk and Al-Baha, but Jouf still produces the largest volume.

HIGHLIGHT

Saudi Arabia now has over 20 million olive trees, more than 80 percent of which are in the Jouf region.

He added that Basita, an agricultural area in Jouf, has the largest olive farm in the world, owned by Al-Jouf Agricultural Development Co., which produces 10,000 tons of the finest oil annually, citing the abundance of water in the area as one of the reasons behind the success.

The CEO of Al-Jouf Agricultural Development Co., Mazen Badawood, said that this year’s festival was one of the best in terms of organization, direction and participation.

“Each year, we see a new image of the festival, and this time we witnessed an improvement as many wonderful activities were added, so as to place olive cultivation in a good light and highlight its importance in Saudi Arabia and worldwide,” said Badawood.

He added that the olive tree was a blessed tree, mentioned in the Qur’an and in the Prophet’s teachings, that provided great economic returns, whether from its fruit, leaves, or even its wood.

He pointed out that the olive tree consumes less water compared to other crops, noting that Al-Jouf Co. uses modern drip irrigation techniques for sustainability.

Olive cultivation is carried out by planting both trees for both traditional and intensive farming. Al-Jouf Co. is considered one of the pioneers in cultivating and developing olive trees in the region, especially for intensive production.

Badawood said his company is proud to be the owner of the largest modern organic olive farm in the world, with more than 5 million trees and a planting area of over 7,300 hectares.

“Saudi Arabia now has over 20 million olive trees, more than 80 percent of which are in the Jouf region, which is famous for olive cultivation thanks to its suitable environment,” he explained.

Badawood noted that the Kingdom produces over 140,000 tons of olive fruits annually, with 120,000 tons of oil being made as a result.

He pointed out that Saudi Arabia consumes about 45,000 tons of olive oil per year, 15,000 to 18,000 tons of which are locally produced while the rest is imported.

However, he noted, with the expansion of olive cultivation, there is an opportunity for self-sufficiency in the near future, which goes in line with the Kingdom’s vision of increasing sustainability and decreasing imports.

 


Who’s Who: Abdulraheem Kano, director at Saudi Post and Logistics

Who’s Who: Abdulraheem Kano, director at Saudi Post and Logistics
Updated 12 June 2021

Who’s Who: Abdulraheem Kano, director at Saudi Post and Logistics

Who’s Who: Abdulraheem Kano, director at Saudi Post and Logistics

Abdulraheem Kano has been the internal workforce mobility and outsourced services director at Saudi Post and Logistics since April 2020.

Between February 2019 and April 2020, Kano served as talent acquisition manager at Noon, one of the leading e-commerce companies in the Middle East.

From September 2016 to October 2018, Kano held the position of strategic projects manager at SAED, a Saudi company providing and managing personnel solutions in the workforce, from basic positions to the executive level.

Kano joined SAED in July 2014 and worked as talent acquisition manager until September 2016.

From January 2013 to July 2014, he held the position of senior recruitment officer at Tamer Group, a leading health, beauty care and prestige product company. Its core activities include importation, distribution, promotion, marketing and manufacturing.

From January 2012 to January 2013, Kano worked as an insurance officer, controlling all general insurance-related activities including motors, marine and properties.

Kano holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah. He received a diploma in IT from the University of South Australia.

He also completed an HRBP certification course from the Society for Human Resource Management.


Mosque closed in Jazan after imam tests positive

Mosque closed in Jazan after imam tests positive
Masjid closed in Jazan province after imam tests positive. (AFP)
Updated 13 June 2021

Mosque closed in Jazan after imam tests positive

Mosque closed in Jazan after imam tests positive
  • The ministry noted the keenness of worshippers and their active role in reporting mosques that did not comply with health and safety instructions

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs office in Jazan temporarily closed the Budaiya Mosque in Abu Arish governorate after it was confirmed that the imam had COVID-19.
Field teams undertook preventive and precautionary measures, including sterilization operations and comprehensive maintenance, in preparation for reopening the mosque and receiving worshippers at a later date.
The ministry noted the keenness of worshippers and their active role in reporting mosques that did not comply with health and safety instructions.