Manhat Building Floating Farms of the Future
In a world grappling with the twin challenges of water scarcity and food insecurity, innovative solutions are not just welcomed; they are imperative. At the forefront of this transformative movement is Manhat, a deep tech startup that has ingeniously tapped into nature’s own methods of water production. Drawing inspiration from the solar still concept, Saeed Alhassan, Founder and CTO of Manhat and his Co-Founder and COO Vishnu Pillai, share how the company has scaled and adapted this idea to work on open water surfaces—paving the way for not only sustainable freshwater production but also potentially revolutionizing agriculture through their floating farm technology. As Manhat charts its journey towards creating eco-friendly water sources and fostering food security, this article delves into their technological advancements, challenges, and aspirations for a more sustainable future.
The FutureList: Could you tell us about the inspiration behind the creation of your innovative water solutions?
Saeed Alhassan, Founder and CTO of Manhat: “Nature has given us the blueprint to produce water – I found the solar still concept very inspiring”. It involves condensing water vapor to create fresh water. We took this idea and developed it further to work on open water surfaces, where water cycles begin and end. By adapting and scaling the concept, we aimed to address challenges related to water and food security by offering a solution to obtain fresh water from open water sources.
The FutureList: Could you delve into the technology that enables your floating farm technology process and how it contributes to your goal of sustainability?
Saeed Alhassan, Founder and CTO of Manhat: Manhat’s floating farm technology is an innovative and sustainable solution to tackle the pressing global issues of water scarcity and limited arable land. Our innovative approach revolves around producing water sustainably from open water surfaces, mimicking the natural water cycle with no carbon footprint and no brine rejection. The technology captures and condenses water vapor from open water sources, similar to the process of natural evaporation and precipitation, to generate fresh water. This sustainable water source can then be utilized for irrigating crops on floating farms, presenting an eco-friendly and efficient means to support agricultural practices. The floating farm technology holds significant promise for coastal communities, offering a resilient and sustainable solution. By utilizing this approach, Manhat aims to assist communities worldwide in becoming more self-reliant and better equipped to cope with the challenges posed by water scarcity and the increasing threat of rising sea levels, which are consequences of climate change.
The FutureList: Does your solution tackle and drive water and food security in the desert? How so?
Vishnu Pillai, Co-founder and COO of Manhat: Manhat’s solution directly addresses and drives water and food security in desert regions. In these areas, traditional desalination methods are often used to convert saltwater into freshwater to combat water scarcity. However, these conventional methods come with significant environmental challenges, such as a high carbon footprint and the discharge of brine-concentrated salt solution into oceans, which can harm aquatic ecosystems. In contrast, Manhat’s innovative technology provides a sustainable alternative for desalination. Their solution can produce freshwater without contributing to carbon emissions or generating harmful brine waste by harnessing the natural water cycle and utilizing open water surfaces. The process mimics natural evaporation and precipitation, ensuring an eco-friendlier and more efficient source of freshwater.
The potential of their technology is immense. The volume of water evaporating from the Arabian Gulf alone is significantly larger than the total amount of desalinated water produced globally by traditional desalination plants. By tapping into this abundant and renewable water source, Manhat’s solution has the capacity to offer a reliable and sustainable water supply to arid regions, thereby driving water and food security in desert areas.
The FutureList: What were some of the key obstacles you encountered in developing Manhat’s pioneering technologies, and how did you overcome them?
Vishnu Pillai, Co-founder and COO of Manha: As a deep technology startup, one of the primary challenges was the need for substantial investment in research and development. Funding was crucial to support the ongoing R&D efforts, conduct pilot projects, and ultimately scale up the innovative solution. To tackle this obstacle, we adopted a proactive approach. We sought and accessed various initiatives and grants available in the UAE and other potential funding sources. By actively seeking financial support and leveraging available resources, we secured the necessary funding to continue advancing their technology – says t
The FutureList: Sustainability is a central theme for Manhat. Can you elaborate on how your technologies not only ensure environmental sustainability but also contribute to the growth and long-term viability of the company?
Saeed Alhassan, Founder and CTO of Manhat: At Manhat, we prioritize environmental sustainability by utilizing natural water cycle processes. This results in a zero-carbon footprint and prevents harmful brine rejection. Our commitment to eco- friendly solutions aligns with the growing demand for sustainable practices, which attracts investment, partnerships, and customer support. Our technologies create a positive social impact by addressing critical challenges like water scarcity and food security, enhancing our company’s reputation. We continuously invest in research and innovation to remain at the forefront of the industry, ensuring long-term growth and competitiveness. These approaches establish Manhat as a resilient and viable company, fostering a brighter and sustainable future.
The FutureList: As Manhat continues to grow, what strategies have you employed to foster innovation within your team and keep up with the rapid advancements in both technology and agriculture?
Saeed Alhassan, Founder and CTO of Manhat: Manhat fosters innovation within our team through a culture that encourages creativity and collaboration. We invest in continuous learning and development opportunities, enabling our workforce to stay updated with rapid technological advancements. Regular brainstorming sessions and cross-functional collaborations facilitate the exchange of ideas and knowledge. By nurturing a dynamic and innovative team, Manhat stays agile in adopting cutting-edge technologies and effectively addressing water and agriculture challenges.
The FutureList: Do you think the UAE ecosystem is equipped to support deep tech startups like Manhat?
Saeed Alhassan, Founder and CTO of Manhat: The government and various institutions in the UAE have implemented several initiatives and programs to foster innovation and research-oriented startups. These initiatives provide financial support, mentorship, access to resources, and networking opportunities, essential for accelerating deep tech technologies’ development and market entry. With a focus on promoting sustainability and technological advancements, the UAE ecosystem encourages startups like Manhat to thrive and contribute to addressing pressing global challenges. The availability of grants, funding opportunities, and research support demonstrates the UAE’s commitment to nurturing a vibrant ecosystem that can propel deep tech startups toward success.
The FutureList: Can you describe the positive potential for floating farm solutions to grow commercial crops? Is it something your team is looking at?
Saeed Alhassan, Founder and CTO of Manhat: By leveraging our patented technologies, we aim to cultivate various essential commercial crops for the UAE and the region. With the UAE currently relying on imports for 90% of its food, we aim to contribute to local food security by 2030. By utilizing floating farms, we can optimize land use, mitigate water scarcity, and create a sustainable and efficient agricultural system that aligns with the UAE’s vision for a more self-sufficient and resilient future.
The FutureList: Could you discuss any partnerships or collaborations that have been instrumental in Manhat’s journey and the development of its groundbreaking solutions?
Vishnu Pillai, Co- Founder and COO of Manhat: Numerous valuable partnerships and collaborations have greatly supported Manhat’s journey and the development of its sustainable water solutions. Notably, the collaboration with Abu Dhabi Ports during the first phase of prototyping was instrumental in validating our technology in a real environment. This partnership enabled us to showcase water production with zero electricity, a significant milestone that brought us to a Technology Readiness Level (TRL6). In addition to Abu Dhabi Ports, our participation in various accelerator programs has been instrumental in accelerating our goals such as Sheraa, C3 Impact Accelerator Program powered by HSBC, Maan Abu Dhabi StartAD Program, Agritech for Morocco hosted by the World Bank, and Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT and many others have provided us with invaluable support, mentorship, and access to resources, helping us advance our innovative solutions and make a meaningful impact in addressing water and food security challenges.
The FutureList: Could you highlight any real-world success stories or case studies that demonstrate the positive effects of Manhat’s solutions on local communities or regions?
Saeed Alhassan, Founder and CTO of Manhat: Manhat has undertaken various prototype studies, which have successfully demonstrated the production of freshwater from brine or open water surfaces without relying on electricity. This technology operates with zero carbon footprint and eliminates the generation of harmful brine waste. By harnessing natural processes, Manhat’s solution showcases a sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to freshwater production, contributing significantly to the mitigation of CO2 emissions and preserving aquatic ecosystems.
The FutureList: Looking ahead, what are Manhat’s aspirations for the next few years?
Saeed Alhassan, Founder and CTO of Manhat: In the coming years, Manhat’s aspirations are ambitious and forward-looking. Our next milestone involves executing a pilot floating farm project on a larger scale, aiming to showcase the sustainable production of crops. This demonstration project is expected to highlight the potential of our innovative solution for addressing water scarcity and food security challenges. Beyond the pilot project, we envision expanding our impact to different parts of the world. We believe that our solution can be a game-changer for regions facing water scarcity, where access to sustainable freshwater sources is essential. Through strategic projects and collaborations, Manhat aims to create a positive global impact by providing scalable and eco-friendly solutions for water and food challenges.
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