Celebrating World Environment Day in Saudi Arabia with two KAUST startups

Terraxy technology in the lab.

Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, 4 Jun 2024 - King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is celebrating Saudi Arabia hosting World Environment Day 2024 by highlighting two of its innovative local startups that are developing solutions for greening Saudi Arabia.   

Saudi Arabia is hosting World Environment Day on June 5 with a focus on land restoration, desertification and drought resilience. One of the most effective ways to restore degraded land, halt desertification and build drought resilience is through ecosystem restoration

Terraxy’s quest to divert organic landfills towards desert greening and capture carbon 

In Saudi Arabia, about 20 million tons of organic waste is landfilled every year. Globally, this amount adds up to gigatons per year. Not only is this adding to growing landfills, the carbon eventually ends up in the air as either carbon dioxide or methane, both of which are greenhouse gases. This is a giga-scale problem that humanity faces today.   

Saudi Arabia has vowed to reduce its organic landfilling by 90% by 2035. Another important vision for Saudi Arabia is the focus on desert agriculture, desert rehabilitation, urban greening and creating public parks and green spaces. 

Terraxy has found a way to address the organic waste and carbon issue as well as aid in the greening of Saudi Arabia. Its propriety soil amendment, called Carbosoil, is produced by a specialized multistep treatment of organic waste (currently chicken manure), and its addition to sandy soils renders them amenable for food production and greening. 

“Sandy soils are alkaline and poor at holding water and nutrients,” Professor Himanshu Mishra, cofounder of Terraxy, states. “Nutrient-use efficiency is quite low due to low-bioavailability, volatilization of ammonia and leaching. Carbosoil serves as a sponge for nutrients and facilitates slow release, akin to slow-release medicine. It's not to be confused with compost or fertilizer.  

We have seen tremendous benefits of CarboSoil on plant health – be it food crops or native trees in Saudi desert sites. This soil amendment lasts for hundreds to thousands of years, which presents a great avenue for giga-scale carbon sequestration to fight climate change.” 

Terraxy technology in the field

Terraxy has had an exciting few years, with over 20 awards, grants and achievements since its inception, including being awarded one of Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Start-ups (Impact Category) in the MENA and Cyprus region in 2024. 

iyris: World-leading, sustainable AgriClimate technology - helping farmers grow fresh produce in difficult climates 

Agriculture is one of the most resource-intensive human activities on the planet, with over 70% of global freshwater used to grow food. The mission of iyris – a KAUST startup - is to design technologies that will help feed the world sustainably.   

iyris’ platform of proprietary technologies ranges from its SecondSky multiple greenhouse covers and shade nets to plant genetics which help growers globally increase crop yields, reduce input costs and risk and extend growing seasons in some of the most difficult farming environments. Its patented, proprietary technologies reduce water and energy consumption by up to 90%. 

The primary technology – SecondSky - is an an award-winning, near infrared heat radiation-blocking greenhouse cover, near infrared heat radiation-blocking greenhouse cover. This controlled environment agriculture solution blocks a portion of near infrared heat radiation but allows photosynthesis in plants, which reduces heat build-up in the greenhouse and drastically reduces irrigation and cooling demands. SecondSky saves significant amounts of energy and water and extends the growing season in hot climates. Recent tests in Saudi Arabia showed over 40% reduction in energy usage and a 30% fall in water consumption. 

“If we can deliver technology for growing good quality fruits, greens and vegetables in hot climates such as the Arabian Peninsula — where fresh water is scarce — then the processes can be replicated in similar harsh and hot environments around the world,” said Professor Derya Baran, co-founder of iyris.   

The global Agtech market is forecast to grow to $7.4 billion by 2030. iyris has just announced a $16 million Series A fund raise.   

Learn more about Terraxy by joining KAUST on X Spaces on World Environment Day, June 5, under the hashtag #generationrestoration:  

  • @KAUST_News will be hosting Terraxy cofounder Prof Himanshu Mishra at 12.00pm KSA time 

  • @KAUST_NewsAR will be hosting Terraxy General Manager Batool Albar at 1.30pm KSA time