KAUST startup secures $1.9 million investment

14 May 2019
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L-R: Red Sea Farms co-founders Dr. R Lefers & M Tester, with RPDC CEO A Almajnouni and Dr. K Cullen,  of KAUST

Red Sea Farms, an agriculture technology spinout company from IASP member KAUST (Saudi Arabia) specializing in saltwater greenhouse technology, recently secured $1.9 million of co-investment from the KAUST Innovation Fund and Research Products Development Company (RPDC).

Red Sea Farms is well positioned to serve the growing food security needs of the Middle East. A combination of irrigation water scarcity and hot, arid lands are barriers to the region's ability to achieve agricultural self-sufficiency.

With its unique 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 seed investment will enable the company to build a 2,000m2 saltwater greenhouse on the KAUST campus, and the company plans to produce 50 tons of tomatoes annually by 2020. Building on six years of research at KAUST, the tomatoes will have significantly higher salinity tolerance and can be grown using up to 30 percent diluted seawater. This also makes the fruits exceptionally sweet, with higher levels of vitamins and antioxidants.

"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," stated Kevin Cullen, vice president of KAUST Innovation and Economic Development.

In the last five years, KAUST has taken a stand in contributing to the emerging venture ecosystem in Saudi Arabia by actively investing in technology startups and early stage companies. This is the first co-investment between KAUST Innovation Fund and RPDC to support high-tech entrepreneurs in the Kingdom.

To read more about KAUST, visit https://innovation.kaust.edu.sa/industry/park/.

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