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(Left to right) Ryan Lefers, Mark Tester, Jana Hubbard, Noura Islam of Red Sea Farms and Amnah Almanei, Research Products Development Company (RPDC).
Red Sea Farms startup wins $150,000 at Misk's Entrepreneurship World Cup finals
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is proud to announce that 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."
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.
Of the 100 global finalists at EWC, six were from the Saudi Arabia: Sadeem, Faheem, Cura, Dhad, Red Sea Farms and UnitX. All were founded by graduates of KAUST's entrepreneurship programs, including the TAQADAM and 9/10ths accelerators.
"We are so proud that all of the Saudi finalists came from KAUST and especially to Red Sea Farms – which came straight out of Professor Mark Tester's greenhouse and is poised to revolutionize agriculture," said Kevin Cullen, Vice President for Innovation and Economic Development at KAUST. "Congratulations to all of the global finalists, the level of talent on the stage that I've seen over the last few days has been phenomenal."