KAUST startup iyris poised to scale its technology with latest $16 million Series A funding

A greenhouse using iyris technology.

Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, 03 June 2024iyris, a pioneering AgriClimate Tech spinout from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) continues on its growth trajectory to take on global markets, with its most recent announcement of Series A Series A round of $16million USD of $16million USD.   

The round was led by Ecosystem Integrity Fund - a San Francisco-based climate and sustainability fund – and supported by current and new institutional investors including Global Ventures, Dubai Future District Fund (DFDF), Kanoo Ventures, Globivest, and Bonaventure Capital. 

iyris’ (previously known as RedSea) SecondSky greenhouse technology was developed in the labs at KAUST by Professor Derya Baran, Professor Mark Tester and Dr Ryan Lefers over a period of six years. Their technology helps growers in some of the most difficult farming environments increase crop yields, reduce input costs and risk and extend growing seasons. 

The funding will enable iyris to increase sales and delivery of its strong international pipeline for its patented SecondSky greenhouse covers and nets. iyris is selling SecondSky near infrared heat radiation blocking nets, and soon to be launched shade screens, to customers growing fresh produce in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, Mexico and North America. 

“SecondSky technology took years of research at KAUST in my labs, with the university being the first investors to jump on board in 2018,” said Derya Baran, KAUST professor of Associate Professor, Material Science and Engineering and co-founder of iyris. “KAUST has been a consistent supporter of our development from early startup to a commercially viable Agtech company.” 

iyris founders (from left) Mark Tester, Derya Baran and Ryan Lefers.

The Series A funding will also help iyris continue the development of its innovative and adaptive plant genetics, developed in Professor Mark Tester’s labs at KAUST. “We developed plant genetics via a novel hybridization process that has the potential to breed resiliency to salinity, heat and drought across a broad range of crops, ensuring stress resistant, dependable food production,” said Professor Tester. “The technology is already demonstrating exciting results with some of the world’s largest tomato growers in large-scale open-field trials.” 

The global Agtech market is forecasted to grow to USD $7.4 bn by 2030. KAUST has several dedicated research teams working on desert agriculture, with a number of other startups now also coming out of the labs, such as Terraxy, a startup focusing on turning organic waste into a forever soil, used to green arid landscapes as well as capture carbon in the process. 

Ian Campbell, Vice President of KAUST’s National Transformation Initiative comments: “The latest funding success of iyris is proof that KAUST is an innovative force in the Kingdom. In fact, KAUST startup initiatives have been one of the key drivers of the Saudi Arabian deep tech startup ecosystem. iyris is a disruptive startup in the Agtech industry and we are excited to see continued momentum with this latest investment round.” 

iyris is just one of many startups supported by KAUST through the University's multiple platforms for technology acceleration. Since its founding 15 years ago, KAUST has supported over 374 seed and early-stage startups, who have collectively raised over $537M and created over 4,300 direct jobs. Always looking to the future, KAUST is bringing together over 35 top local investors and startups from around the Kingdom at its upcoming Spectrum Investment Forum demo day on June 5, 2024, to support pioneering solutions in areas such as smart cities, ecommerce, economic and digital transformation, climate change mitigation and food security.