AgTech firm Red Sea Farms receives $10m investment
Red Sea Farms, a Saudi Arabian AgTech business whose technology enables the commercial farming of produce using primarily salt water, has received a $10 million venture capital investment from a group of leading Saudi and UAE investors.
The investment in Red Sea Farms, which is based at King Abdullah University for Science & Technology (KAUST), was established in 2018 and is one of the region’s largest AgTech investments. The consortium reflects growing investor interest solutions that can combat pandemics and global supply chain disruptions.
The company’s system primarily uses salt water, cutting fresh-water consumption by 85 to 90%. Through a patented system of new, more efficient solar and growth monitoring technologies, salt water replaces fresh water typically used to cool greenhouses and irrigate crops.
The funding is being led by a group of Saudi and UAE investors including the Aramco entrepreneurship arm Wa’ed, the non-profit foundation Future Investment Initiative Institute, KAUST and Global Ventures, a UAE venture capital group. The funding is one of the first AgTech investment for many of the participants.
Red Sea Farms to “improve global food security”
“We are proud to have designed, developed and delivered one of the world’s most sustainable agricultural systems from our base in Saudi Arabia,” said Ryan Lefers, Red Sea’s Chief Executive and co-founder of Red Sea Farms. “The investment from our new partners will help us improve global food security while reducing the carbon and fresh-water footprint.”
“The Red Sea Farms investment reflects our decade-long commitment to the Saudi start-up sector, where Wa’ed has deployed more than $100 million in venture capital investments and loans to more than 100 entrepreneurs”, Wassim Basrawi, the managing director of Aramco venture Wa’ed. “Red Sea Farms is a good example of a game-changing start- up whose innovations not only can transform markets but improve life for everyone in the Kingdom.”
KAUST funding for Red Sea Farms
Red Sea Farms plans to use the funding to build and retrofit more than six hectares of commercial farming operations in central and western Saudi Arabia. The company currently operates a salt-water pilot greenhouse at the KAUST Research & Technology Park.
Red Sea Farms received a $1.9 million investment in 2019 from the KAUST Innovation Fund and Saudi-based Research Products Development Company. A leading graduate research university, KAUST is a major innovator of sustainable agriculture solutions for the Middle East and other water-scarce regions.
SokoFresh's cold storage units will stop food waste in Kenya
A foodtech company in Kenya is using solar energy to help smallholder farmers keep harvested produce cool to prevent food waste.
SokoFresh is a member of The Circulars Accelerator, an initiative to help entrepreneurs scale innovations that will help the world move towards a circular economy – in which waste is eliminated and resources are used again and again.
New cold storage units to prevent food waste
Small-volume farmers who grow avocados, mangos and French beans in Kenya, are helping to test the model from SokoFresh, which manages mobile cold storage units, that run on 100% solar energy.
By paying a small amount (1 Kenyan shilling) per kilogram on a pay-as-you-go basis, farmers or produce buyers can affordably access cold storage, when they need it.
SokoFresh plans for 400 cold storage units, in five years, to boost income for 35,000 farmers.
Cold storage units will support Kenya’s farmers
About 90% of Kenya’s agricultural produce comes from smallholders, who don’t have the kind of cold storage solutions available to large-scale producers. This means lots of produce perishes in outside temperatures after being harvested.
“More than 30% of all food produced in the world for human consumption gets lost or wasted”, said a representative from SokoFresh says. “Food loss in Africa occurs almost entirely in the production and distribution stages.”
Farmers using the model can earn up to 50% more on their harvest, while buyers receive more and better quality produce.
The cost of logistics is also reduced, because trucks are picking up full loads that have been stored in the cold storage units by multiple farmers.
Enviu, the Netherlands-based impact venture organization behind SokoFresh, hopes to have a network of 400 cold storage units in the next five years. This would help 35,000 farmers, creating 3,000 new jobs in rural areas and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Sokofresh supports UN Sustainable Goal 12
Around 14% of food is lost after harvest on farms and at the transport, storage, processing and wholesale stages, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. This food has a value of more than $400b a year.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres last year described food loss and waste as an “ethical outrage.”
By 2030, UN member states have pledged to halve food waste and reduce food loss as part of Sustainable Development Goal 12.
SokoFresh is a part of the solution to food security and ending food waste.