Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Farms has raised an additional $6 million in pre-Series A funding, bringing the total round to $16 million (h/t Wamda). Those leading the round include Aramco’s venture arm Wa’ed, the Saudi government-owned Future Investment Initiative (FII) Institute, KAUST, Global Ventures, AppHarvest, and Bonaventure. The $6 million announced over the weekend follows an initial $10 million investment the company unveiled in June of this year.
Red Sea Farms, which is based out of King Abdullah University for Science & Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia, is developing a grow system for crops that relies primarily on saltwater as the primary irrigation input. As company cofounder and CSO Prof. Mark Tester told The Spoon recently, the system works on both crops grown traditionally via land and those grown indoors using hydroponics. The idea is to provide more resource options for farmers in parts of the world where freshwater is less abundant. The company’s technology can use saltwater for evaporative cooling in greenhouses, which could potentially cut a facility’s carbon footprint.
Red Sea Farms currently has three grow sites, all in Saudi Arabia. The pre-Series A round of funding will help the company expand its operations in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East, as well as explore opportunities in the U.S. “where growing conditions are harsh.”
A number of companies have announced crop innovations for the Middle East region this year, including iFarm’s partnership with Sadarah Partners in Qatar and AeroFarms’ developing a R&D hub in the UAE. Also in 2021, Estonian automated gardening company Natufia announced its relocation to Saudi Arabia. Most of these developments are in response to a rising urgency around global food security coupled with a need to reduce the planet’s over-reliance on traditional agriculture resources (e.g., freshwater, land).
Red Sea Farms says it can cut freshwater consumption of farming operations by by 85 to 90 percent through its grow system.