Trying to grow fresh produce in the desert brought the team with RedSea not only insights and knowledge but also resulted in technical innovations. With these products, branded as RedSea, they are now looking to help more growers around the world. Currently, trials with their heat-blocking greenhouse roof and their sensors are conducted in Almeria, Spain, as well as in Egypt and the Middle East.
Heat and water scarcity
“Our technologies were designed in Saudi Arabia, so heat and water scarcity is an everyday thing. But these problems are not unique to Saudi Arabia. Circumstances in that country are extreme, but increasing temperatures and water scarcity are challenges growers deal with everywhere. Now we’re getting our technology into the hands of growers.” Speaking Simon Bryant, CFO with RedSea, the owner technology spinoff of the Red Sea Farms brand. He explains how sustainability goes beyond environmental reasons. “It’s also about commercial sustainability and long-term aroundness. There are many areas in the world where this is mismanaged because there are not enough resources to stay in for the long term.” Bruno talks about Mauritania in West Africa. “Around the Senegal river, you would be able to because there’s enough water. Yet, no farming happens there because of the harsh weather conditions. And in Egypt, for example, the quality of the water and the source of water is not good because of the high salinity.”
“We see that millions of hectares are now not as suitable for farming. Yet, they can be as such with the right strategy and techniques”, adds Bruno de Oliveira, who recently joined the team. With experience growing in arid areas, he’s now helping RedSea expand its techniques to different areas such as Morocco, Spain, and the Middle East, but also the US and Mexico. “This would not only avoid millions of kilometers of traveling but also stabilize the requirements of countries with local production.”
Sensors and nano-material greenhouse roofs
In several locations, including Almeria, Spain, a trial is started with their sensors and their innovation for greenhouse roofs: a nano-material that lets in light but not heat. Just recently, the company won an ASABE AE50 with this product. “Our proprietary nano-material blocks near-infrared solar radiation, allowing active photosynthetic radiation to pass through. This prevents a percentage of solar heat from entering the greenhouse, reduces energy consumption on cooling, saves water, and extends the growing season in hot climates. All that combined promotes sustainable growth of high-quality fruits and vegetables”, Bruno shows. In recent tests, Iyris Heat Blocking Roof was proven to reduce energy bills and water consumption by more than 25%.
With their solutions, the team focuses on affordability. “As RedSea, we are very much aware that our economics might work on high-end crops. At the same time, you need a solution that can be scaled easily to truly benefit the commodity type of crops. This is why we’re ensuring our solutions can be applied with ease. After all, a solution needs to be affordable to have an impact.” The developed heat-blocking nano-material, for example, can be compounded in polycarbonates and meshes used in greenhouses. “We see those nets and tunnels make the majority of protected agriculture. The grower does not require big adjustments or changes in the structures to improve their cultivation – they can just change the sheets.” The same goes for their sensors: according to Simon, they’re affordable, climate adaptive, and stable. “Our sensors meet those criteria. We know it from our facilities. The software is compatible, and the data is another proof of the impact of technology.”
“With our trials, we’re getting more data on how our products work in the field, and we can show growers how big the impact of technology can be in their region. We need to show them what we’re talking about, clarify the doubts and confirm the applicability in different regions and climate zones”, Bruno says, adding that the insights from the data are essential for growers since there’s no one key solution for every situation. “We know that – we are a grower ourselves, not only a technology company.”
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