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.

 


Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drones targeting Saudi Arabia’s Jazan, Khamis Mushait

Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drones targeting Saudi Arabia’s  Jazan, Khamis Mushait
Updated 06 March 2021

Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drones targeting Saudi Arabia’s Jazan, Khamis Mushait

Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drones targeting Saudi Arabia’s  Jazan, Khamis Mushait
  • Spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said the coalition destroyed eight drones in the past 24 hours
  • The recent Houthi attacks received multiple condemnations from Arab countries

DUBAI: The Arab coalition on Saturday intercepted and destroyed two Houthi drones targeting Saudi Arabia’s Jazan and Khamis Mushait, state news agency SPA reported.
Spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said the coalition destroyed eight drones in the past 24 hours.
He added that the Iranian-backed militia’s attempts to attack civilians in a deliberate and systematic manner constituted war crimes.
Al-Maliki said the coalition had put in place measures to protect civilians in accordance with international humanitarian law.
Earlier on Friday, the coalition intercepted and destroyed six Houthi drones targeting the southwestern Saudi city of Khamis Mushayt.
The recent Houthi attacks received multiple condemnations from countries including the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain and Jordan where they stated their full support for the Kingdom in its fight against the militia.
Kuwait’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also said that the continuation of these crimes confirms the militia’s dangerous escalations and its intent to harm the security of Saudi Arabia and undermine the stability of the region.


Ministry campaign checks COVID-19 measures in Riyadh mosques

Ministry campaign checks COVID-19 measures in Riyadh mosques
Updated 06 March 2021

Ministry campaign checks COVID-19 measures in Riyadh mosques

Ministry campaign checks COVID-19 measures in Riyadh mosques

RIYADH: The Riyadh branch of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance on Friday organized an awareness and monitoring campaign to ensure mosques were implementing COVID-19 precautionary and preventive measures, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The campaign was carried out in cooperation with the General Directorate of Health Affairs in Riyadh and a number of volunteer associations.
Healthcare volunteers and mosque supervisors took part in the campaign. Participants told worshippers to comply with social distancing measures, use their own prayer mats, and wear a face mask at all times.
They also organized the entry and exit of worshippers, in addition to distributing masks and prayer mats among them.
The director general of the ministry’s branch in Riyadh, Ahmed Al-Fares, said the campaign aimed to help raise awareness about COVID-19 prevention methods.
He added that the campaign was in line with the efforts of various state agencies to fight the pandemic and also promote a culture of volunteering among government bodies.

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Saudis behind ‘The Journey’ anime trained in Japan

Saudis behind ‘The Journey’ anime trained in Japan
‘The Journey’ tells a historical story from the Arabian Peninsula where a potter with a mysterious past, Aws, takes part in an epic battle to defend his city. (Supplied)
Updated 06 March 2021

Saudis behind ‘The Journey’ anime trained in Japan

Saudis behind ‘The Journey’ anime trained in Japan
  • The film’s promotional video has already received support from Saudi entertainment officials, ministries and young people

JEDDAH: The 300 young Saudis who went to Japan to receive training in the art of manga will be able to see their new anime film on the cinematic big screen this summer.
The term manga is used in Japan to refer to both comics and cartooning, as the famous art form has been gaining popularity in the Kingdom for years.
That is why the Manga Productions Company recruited hundreds of young Saudis to come to the Toei Animation Studios to work on the first Saudi-Japanese anime film “The Journey.”
The company’s CEO Essam Bukhary, who is also the executive producer for the film, described the project as “the result of Saudi creative content production in cooperation with high-level international partners.”
Directed by the renowned Shizuno Kobun, the anime film took two-and-a-half years to make as the Saudi and Japanese staff succeeded in creating a blend of each country’s culture.
“Those young men and women worked along with the Japanese team on all the phases of the work, starting from writing the story, designing the characters, backgrounds, storyboard, editing, reviewing and others,” Bukhary told the YaHala TV show on Rotana Khalijia.
He said “The Journey” tells a historical story from the Arabian Peninsula where a potter with a mysterious past, Aws, takes part in an epic battle to defend his city.
Bukhary said the film will be displayed in both Arabic and Japanese.

HIGHLIGHT

Directed by the renowned Shizuno Kobun, the anime film took two-and-a-half years to make as the Saudi and Japanese staff succeeded in creating a blend of each country’s culture.

The film’s promotional video has already received support from Saudi entertainment officials, ministries and young people.
Saudi Royal Court adviser Turki Al-Sheikh, who is also the General Entertainment Authority chairman, tweeted: “I am ready to help with anything I can do.”
In another tweet, the Saudi Media Ministry posted: “The Journey, which will be displayed in the Middle East and North Africa this summer, represents a big cinematic step based on the Saudi Arabian heritage.”
The Japanese Embassy in Riyadh is excited for the film’s debut this summer and also praised both countries for their cooperation on the project.
Khaled Ibrahim, a Saudi digital illustrator, said the Kingdom is full of talented young men and women who just need studios where they can make similar animations and cartoons.
“The work that Manga Production has done, in collaboration with the famous Japanese Toei Animation, is a source of pride to us all,” he told Arab News.
Ibrahim said he was thrilled to hear that the company insisted on giving Saudis the chance to take part in courses on animation making.
“This could become the cornerstone for a new local industry,” he said.


Who’s Who: Muhammad Ali Albakri, IATA senior vice president for customer, financial and digital services

Who’s Who: Muhammad Ali Albakri, IATA senior vice president for customer, financial and digital services
Updated 06 March 2021

Who’s Who: Muhammad Ali Albakri, IATA senior vice president for customer, financial and digital services

Who’s Who: Muhammad Ali Albakri, IATA senior vice president for customer, financial and digital services

Muhammad Ali Albakri has been appointed senior vice president for customer, financial and digital services at the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Since January 2017, Albakri held the role of regional vice president for the Africa and Middle East region.

Succeeding Aleks Popovich, Albakri is now responsible for IATA’s financial settlement products and services. He will be expected to process more than $450 billion of industry every year.
His responsibilities also include strengthening IATA’s client and customer activities, along with the company’s digital transformation initiatives for the benefit of the aviation industry.
IATA’s Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said Popovich left behind a great team with a clear focus on customer service that will continue to drive critical changes under Albakri’s capable leadership.
The company’s website described Albakri as “an agent of change,” who will transform the MENA team to better serve member needs and pioneer the work of IATA’s digital transformation advisory council.
“Albakri is well prepared to guide the development of IATA’s commercial offerings, settlement services and digital leadership,” de Juniac said in a statement. “In normal times, these are critical functions, even more so in the middle of an industry crisis.”
Albakri previously worked for Saudia, the Kingdom’s national flag carrier, and served as its vice president of information technology. From 2009 to 2016, he was in charge of strengthening the company’s technology infrastructure and modernizing its financial practices. Albakri earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in information sciences from the University of Pittsburgh.


Cinemas, gyms and restaurants to reopen in Saudi Arabia

Cinemas, gyms and restaurants to reopen in Saudi Arabia
Updated 06 March 2021

Cinemas, gyms and restaurants to reopen in Saudi Arabia

Cinemas, gyms and restaurants to reopen in Saudi Arabia
  • All events and parties will continue to be suspended until further notice
  • Social gatherings remain restricted to a maximum of 20 people

RIYADH: Cinemas, gyms and sports centers will be allowed to reopen in Saudi Arabia from Sunday.
Indoor dining can also resume in restaurants and cafes along with other recreational activities, the interior ministry said on Friday.
However, all events and parties will continue to be suspended until further notice. This includes weddings, corporate meetings, events in banquet halls and social events.
Social gatherings remain restricted to a maximum of 20 people.
The Kingdom suspended recreational events on Feb. 3 to halt the spread of COVID-19. The suspension was extended on Feb. 14 for 20 days.
The ministry urged people to adhere to measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and said there would be an increase in spot checks to ensure everyone followed the rules.

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