Saudi Arabia-based startup Red Sea Farms has closed its series A funding round, scoring $6m from US investors AppHarvest and Bonaventure Captial, bringing its total funding to $16m. The company uses smart technology to cultivate food crops using saltwater instead of freshwater to ‘reduc[e] the carbon and water footprint of our food sector’.
The startup previously received a $10m investment boost from regional investors in June this year, including Wa’ed Ventures — the VC arm of oil major Aramco — as well as the Future Investment Initiative Institute and King Abdullah University of Science & Technology‘s KAUST Innovation Fund.
The funds will reportedly be used to establish the group’s first ever commercial-scale indoor farm, as well as help expansion plans to reach the United Arab Emirates market.
In a statement, Ryan Lefers, Red Sea Farms CEO said: “Red Sea Farms is thrilled to have substantially exceeded its target for the current funding round. We look forward to working closely with our investors and our Red Sea Farms team to accelerate plans to roll out our technology in Saudi, the Middle East and North America.”
The firm was established in 2018 as a spin-out of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), describing itself as using ‘autonomous, intelligent agriculture’ to help ‘support the nutritional needs of water-scarce populations’. The crops used in its greenhouses have been developed in-house to have a high tolerance to salt, and the team uses saltwater to both cool and irrigate the crops. Development of these saline-tolerant crops could offer opportunities to expand cultivation into previously hostile terrain, such as deserts, and avoids the expense of desalinating water.
The group have said they are already in discussions with the next round of potential investors, which they say reflects a ‘growing trend’ for investments into sustainable projects as economies strive to reach their climate targets.