Source: Arab Net
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.