Red Sea Farms placed third at the recent Entrepreneurship World Cup (EWC). The event, which was part of the Misk Global Forum, featured over 100 startup finalists from 64 countries. Red Sea Farms is a KAUST agriculture technology spinout that specializes in saltwater greenhouse technology.
The startup co-founded by Professor Mark Tester, Associate Director of the Center for Desert Agriculture at KAUST is creating new greenhouse technology and tomato produce using saltwater, with the objective of relieving the stress on global dependence of fresh water for irrigation.
"The problem is that globally our food systems are profoundly unsustainable," said Tester. "We have to change our overdependence on water, and one way to achieve this is to substitute some of the water we use with salty water. Therefore, Red Sea Farms aims to develop and deploy economically viable saltwater-based agricultural systems."
Left to right: Ryan Lefers, Mark Tester, Jana Hubbard, Noura Islam of Red Sea Farms and Amnah Almanei, Research Products Development Company (RPDC)
The startup recently received early stage funding from KAUST's Innovation Fund and Research Products Development Company, the venture investment arm of King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology (KACST) based in Riyadh. Together the partners jointly invested $1.9 million USD of seed funding to build a 2,000 square meter pilot greenhouse facility on the KAUST campus.
The win at the Entrepreneurship World Cup will enable the startup to scale their greenhouse production more quickly. "With this win we anticipate that we will get our saltwater tomatoes to market and onto consumer tables more quickly than anticipated. Our goal is to produce 50 tons of tomatoes in the coming year," said Tester.
Established by the Misk Global Forum, the Entrepreneurship World Cup (EWC) is the world's largest global pitch competition with over 100,000 applicants from 185 countries, culminating in a global competition which took place November 12-14 in Riyadh. The Misk Global Forum is the flagship international platform of Misk Foundation, a non-profit established to empower young people to become active participants in the knowledge economy.