Mirai Solar harnesses green energy to power greenhouses

Mirai Solar harnesses green energy to power greenhouses
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Founding team of Mirai Solar, from left, inside the KAUST Solar Center labs: Emmanuel Van Kerschaver, Michael Salvador, Tom Allen, Michele de Bastiani, Ahmed Balawi. (Supplied)
Mirai Solar harnesses green energy to power greenhouses
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The PV panels are made of monocrystalline silicon solar cells that generate an electric current when exposed to sunlight. (Supplied)
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Updated 17 March 2023

Mirai Solar harnesses green energy to power greenhouses

Mirai Solar harnesses green energy to power greenhouses
  • The startup manufactures greenhouse shade screens that convert sunlight into electricity

Mirai Solar, a solar technology startup of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, is disrupting the greenhouse market by developing foldable roof shades that not only prevent fruits, vegetables and flowers from extreme sunlight but also generate electricity to run these facilities.

Established in 2019, the company manufactures retractable, semitransparent photovoltaic shade screens that convert blocked sunlight into electricity. The solution has two main components: the PV panels and the shade screen.

The PV panels are made of monocrystalline silicon solar cells that generate an electric current when exposed to sunlight, which is fed into the local power distribution panel to support the energy needs of the greenhouse.

On the other hand, the shade screen is made of specialized light diffusion material designed to regulate the amount of light that enters the greenhouse by sliding back and forth along a track. When the shade screen is fully extended, it blocks part of the sunlight from entering the greenhouse, and when it is retracted, it allows more sunlight to enter.

HIGHLIGHT

The PV panels are made of monocrystalline silicon solar cells that generate an electric current when exposed to sunlight, which is fed into the local power distribution panel to support the energy needs of the greenhouse.

The retractable PV shade screen is typically controlled by a computerized system that uses sensors to measure the amount of light entering the greenhouse. When the light is too high, the system automatically extends the shade screen to reduce the amount of light entering the greenhouse.

But for all practical purposes, the PV shade screens are controlled by a timer, allowing the user to set specific times for the screen to retract and extend.

“We wanted to provide ideal light management to the plants, so we engineered a screen that was retractable and had the flexibility of using solar cells with high efficiency and stability, offering us a huge advantage in performance and cost when compared with whatever PV technology was out there,” said Michael Salvador, CEO of Mirai Solar, a doctorate in physical chemistry who joined KAUST Solar Center in 2017.

Saudi greenhouse initiative

Of late, greenhouses have been under the spotlight in Saudi Arabia, especially after Abdulrahman Al-Fadhli, the minister of environment, water and agriculture, in January approved investments worth $1.06 billion until 2025 toward the plant resources sector and greenhouses.

It highlighted the role of greenhouses in the Kingdom, where the hot and arid climate with limited water resources makes it difficult to cultivate crops sustainably. In many ways, it cleared the deck for controlled environments that protected crops from excessive heat, wind and pests, facilitating a variety of crops throughout the year.




Mirai Solar’s co-founder and CEO Michael Salvador at the KAUST Solar Center. (Supplied)

These plant shelters are also vital for the country’s food security as they help increase the local production of fresh produce and reduce dependence on imported food. This is particularly important given the increasing population and the need to meet the growing demand for food.

However, greenhouses in Saudi Arabia require significant electricity to maintain optimal growing conditions in extreme weather. For example, during the summer, temperatures can reach up to 50 degrees Celsius, meaning that air conditioning and cooling systems will need to run continuously to keep the greenhouse at a suitable temperature.

According to industry reports, the basic energy consumption of a greenhouse includes light supplementation, dehumidification, heating and cooling, which could account for over 90 percent of the total power consumption. So, energy efficiency in greenhouses is paramount.

Energy efficiency

In such a scenario, the prospects of Mirai shade screens appear much brighter as it was particularly suited for mid-tech greenhouses that typically utilize 80 kilowatt-hours per square meter a year and high-tech facilities that consume 500 kWh per sq.m. per year.

“We are at a stage where we can deliver a minimum of 80kWh per sq.m. per year so we can fully cover the electricity needs of a mid-tech greenhouse and a certain percentage of the demand of a high-tech facility,” Salvador added.

The solution’s flexibility is such that it offers a drop-in replacement to conventional shade screens, which means it can be retrofitted to existing greenhouses or integrated with new greenhouse constructions.

Ask Salvador where he drew his inspiration for this innovation, and his reply: KAUST. After joining the university, Salvador chanced upon Ryan Leyfus, one of the founders of Red Sea Farms, another innovative KAUST spinout that pioneered saltwater-based agriculture in the Kingdom.

Leyfus highlighted the concern of raising plants under conventional shade screens and planted the idea of a photovoltaic panel that mimics them and has the same functionality.

“We proposed the idea to the Technology Transfer Office of KAUST. They were convinced of the idea and provided us with a grant that helped us to develop a minimum viable product and later our first pilots on a sizable scale,” said Salvador, who ended up hosting a demonstration for Red Sea Farms at their greenhouse facility in the university campus.

Mirai Solar has been running several pilot installations in Saudi Arabia, including Estidamah and Al-Rasheed. The company is also manufacturing a PV system to be deployed in California around April, even as it scouts for funds to increase the scale of its operations, and this is just the beginning.

Soon, the solar technology startup will expand beyond the horizons of the greenhouse and create solar-powered car parking spaces for electric vehicles and deploy its foldable modules on mobile shipping containers to fuel their energy needs. And Salvador is committed to taking it to the next level.


DP World in top 5 overseas investors since 2012

DP World in top 5 overseas investors since 2012
Updated 26 March 2023

DP World in top 5 overseas investors since 2012

DP World in top 5 overseas investors since 2012
  • Logistics company invested $320m in the last year

DUBAI: DP World has invested more than $10 billion in the global logistics sector since 2012, Emirates News Agency has reported. 

The figures make the UAE-based company one of the top five overseas investors during the time period, according to the most recent foreign direct investment data.

Despite the demand for logistics services slowing, along with the global economy, DP World invested $320 million in the last year. 

Other companies in the top five include Amazon, and Denmark’s AP Moller Maersk, making DP World the only company in the group not based in the US or Europe.

DP World CEO Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem said: “The data shared by ‘FDI Intelligence’ demonstrates where we stand globally within the logistics sector, not only in the last year but consistently over the last 10 years.

“DP World’s companies touch people’s lives around the world every day. Sometimes it is tangible, and sometimes we are in the background, making sure people and businesses get the goods they require.

“Our infrastructure opens untapped trade opportunities, grows economies and makes goods more affordable.

“Investing in developing economies helps trade go further, facilitates economic growth, attracts foreign investment and generates thousands of jobs — raising the quality of life for everyone.”

According to a study in January commissioned by DP World and led by Economist Impact, 96 percent of companies are changing their supply chains as a result of geopolitical events.

One of DP World’s priorities in 2022 was to expand its partnerships in order to realize this trade potential.

It strengthened its partnership with India’s National Investment and Infrastructure Fund to raise about $300 million, and it established a new platform with British International Investment to accelerate work in Africa.

The African continent has been a key focus area, with the construction of the Port of Ndayane in Senegal marking the start of a $1 billion investment.

Plans are also in the works to expand the capabilities of operations at Caucedo in the Dominican Republic, while the Callao Port expansion in Peru, when completed later this year, will reportedly create one of the single largest terminals in South America.

Another popular investment destination has been the UK. DP World has invested £2 billion ($2.44 billion) in the UK over the last decade, supporting thousands of jobs, WAM reported.


Standard Chartered agrees to sell business in Jordan

Standard Chartered agrees to sell business in Jordan
Updated 26 March 2023

Standard Chartered agrees to sell business in Jordan

Standard Chartered agrees to sell business in Jordan
  • Bank said in April that it was seeking to narrow its focus to faster-growing markets in the region, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

DUBAI: Standard Chartered plans to sell its Jordanian business to Arab Jordan Investment Bank (AJIB), the two parties said on Sunday, as the emerging markets-focused lender presses ahead with plans to exit seven markets in Africa and the Middle East.
The bank entered into an agreement with AJIB, subject to central bank approval, which will see Standard Chartered’s corporate, commercial and institutional banking, consumer lending and private banking businesses migrated to AJIB.
All Standard Chartered Bank employees in Jordan will be transferred to AJIB, it said an emailed statement.
Standard Chartered’s Africa and Middle East CEO Sunil Kaushal said the agreement is aligned with the banks global strategy “to deliver efficiencies, reduce complexity, as well as redirect resources within the Africa Middle East region to areas with the greatest potential to drive scale, grow and better support clients.”
AJIB said the purchase falls within the Jordanian lender’s strategy to grow its market share in the country, which continues to grow after it acquired HSBC’s banking business in Jordan in 2014 and National Bank of Kuwait’s banking business in Jordan in 2022.
Standard Chartered in April 2022 said it plans to leave seven markets, consisting of Angola, Cameroon, Gambia, Jordan, Lebanon, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe.
The bank said at the time it was seeking to exit markets where it is sub-scale and narrow its focus to faster-growing markets in the region, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt.


Closing bell: Saudi benchmark index continues upward movement on promising market conditions

Closing bell: Saudi benchmark index continues upward movement on promising market conditions
Updated 26 March 2023

Closing bell: Saudi benchmark index continues upward movement on promising market conditions

Closing bell: Saudi benchmark index continues upward movement on promising market conditions

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index continued its upward trajectory on Sunday as it went up by 12.97 points or 0.93 percent to close at 10,459.36. The promising market conditions resulted in a rise in investor confidence, pushing the market up.

The parallel market, Nomu, also rose by 174.79 points or 0.92 percent to close at 19,231.63, while the MSCI Tadawul 30 Index gained 0.02 percent to reach 1,423.63 on Sunday. Total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR4.05 billion ($1.08 billion).

On Thursday, during the first session of Ramadan month, the main index gained 95.88 points and closed at 10,446.39.

Arab Sea Information System Co. emerged as the top gainer, as its share prices went up by 9.96 percent to SR78.40 followed by Al Kathiri Holding Co. whose share prices surged by 9.88 percent to SR55.60.

Zain KSA which reported a net profit of SR550 million in 2022, saw its shares surge 9.83 percent to SR11.84.

Thimar Development Holding Co. was the worst performer, dropping 9.95 percent to SR43.45, followed by Al Sagr Cooperative Insurance Co. whose share prices went down by 6.08 percent to SR12.66.

Meanwhile, Horizon Food Co., affiliated with Tabuk Agriculture Development Co. began trading on Nomu on Sunday with an opening price of SR37 per share and closed the session at SR44.95, up 21.49 percent.

On Sunday, Amwaj International Co. announced its financial results for 2022. In a statement issued to Tadawul, the company revealed that it recorded a 2.7 percent rise in net profit to SR29.02 million in 2022, compared to SR28.26 million in the year-ago period.

Sure Global Tech Co. reported a net profit of SR24.07 million in 2022, up 33 percent from SR18.12 million in 2021. In a bourse statement, the company attributed the rise in profit to a 12 percent increase in revenues driven by the product segment, adequately supported by the expansion of the customer base.

Sure Global Tech Co. also added that net profit increased in 2022 due to the revenue growth in infrastructure, professional and digital services segments. Despite the rise in net profit, the company’s share prices fell by 1.67 percent to close at SR53.10.

Arabian Pipes Co., also known as APC turned profitable in 2022, as the company reported a net profit of SR8.9 million, versus a net loss of SR60.1 million in 2021. According to a bourse statement, the net profit of the company rose in 2022 due to an increase in sales which went up by 37 percent.

Driven by the rise in profits, the share prices of Arabian Pipes Co. went up by 9.52 percent to SR42.

Another company that reported its financial results on Sunday was Saudi Ground Services Co. In 2022, the company trimmed its net losses to SR244.48 million, compared to SR254.41 million in 2021. Even though the company performed well in 2022 compared to 2021, its share prices dropped by 4.76 percent to SR22.


Saudi REDF deposits over $246m in Sakani accounts for housing projects  

Saudi REDF deposits over $246m in Sakani accounts for housing projects  
Updated 26 March 2023

Saudi REDF deposits over $246m in Sakani accounts for housing projects  

Saudi REDF deposits over $246m in Sakani accounts for housing projects  

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Real Estate Development Fund deposited more than SR925 million ($246.2 million) in the accounts of Sakani beneficiaries in March 2023.  

The Sakani program was launched in 2017 by the REDF to facilitate homeownership in the Kingdom, by developing new housing stock, allocating plots and homes to nationals and financing their purchase. 

The deposit, which also comes from the Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing and the REDF, is in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 which aims to increase the proportion of citizens who own a home to 70 percent.  

Mansour bin Madi, CEO of REDF, stated that the total amount deposited in the accounts of Sakani beneficiaries since the announcement of the transformation program in June 2017 until March 2023, exceeded SR46.2 billion.  

He also said that the total fund for the current month of March was allocated to support the profits of various housing contracts.  

Bin Madi explained that the fund launched the second phase of product governance and provided an electronic service that allows the beneficiaries with self-construction projects to update the stages of building their homes.  

This is to emphasize the importance of the beneficiaries' commitment to direct the stages of building their housing and follow up on the stages.  

He added this is to ensure that the fund supports and facilitates are provided to the beneficiaries during the time period specified in the financing contracts and housing support regulations. 


IMF says risks to financial stability have increased, calls for vigilance

IMF says risks to financial stability have increased, calls for vigilance
Updated 26 March 2023

IMF says risks to financial stability have increased, calls for vigilance

IMF says risks to financial stability have increased, calls for vigilance

RIYADH: International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva said on Sunday that risks to financial stability have increased and called for continued vigilance although actions by advanced economies have calmed market stress.

Speaking during the first day of the China Development Forum, Georgieva noted that 2023 poses yet another challenging and thought-provoking year with an expected global growth rate slowing to below 3 percent.  

This is mainly attributed to the repercussion of the pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine war, as well as monetary tightening, the IMF chief explained.  

Even though progressive economies have attempted to compose market stress, the overall outlook for 2024 remains weak with the growth rate estimated to stand below the historic average of 3.8 percent, she pointed out.

"So, we continue to monitor developments closely and are assessing potential implications for the global economic outlook and global financial stability," Georgieva reassured. 

Moreover, when it comes to vulnerable and low-income countries with high levels of debt, she emphasized that the IMF is paying close attention to those in order to further support them.  

In addition to this, there is a risk of the world splitting into rival economic blocs, resulting in "a dangerous division that would leave everyone poorer and less secure," as a consequence of geo-economic fragmentation, Georgieva warned. 

That said, China has a significant role to play with regard to minimizing the risks of financial instability. It has been forecasted that every one percentage point boost in China’s gross domestic product results in a 0.3 percentage point rise in growth in other Asian economies, she said. 

Consequently, policymakers in China are urged to focus on further raising productivity while rebalancing the economy and shifting away from investment while moving towards more sturdy consumption-driven growth.

According to conjectures, such reforms are capable of lifting real GDP by as much as 2.5 percent by 2027, and by around 18 percent by 2037, explained. 

The China Development Forum is an annual high-level global conference held in China right after the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference each year. 

This year, the forum is taking place from March 25 up until March 27 under the theme “Economic Recovery: Opportunities and Cooperation.” 

The conference poses an opportunity for participants to connect with political, economic, and significant decision-makers in the Asian country.