UAE innovator’s start-up makes fresh water naturally in Abu Dhabi

UAE innovator's start-up makes fresh water naturally in Abu Dhabi.

ABU DHABI, TGO: Manhat, a local deep tech start-up, has seen initial success in sustainably producing fresh water out of sea and remains on track to realise its ambition of creating floating farms.

By deploying the natural water distillation technology, Emirati innovator and founder of Manhat, Dr Saeed Alhassan has been able to trap evaporated water from open water surfaces through a simple but effective device. The vapour will condense when the temperature drops at night and fresh water gets collected in a can.

All this is done without the need for electricity and no carbon emissions or by-products like brine.Explaining a prototype standing on acrylic and currently installed at a canal on Reem Island, Dr Alhassan noted the floating solution will offer a sustainable lifeline to counter the grave issue of water scarcity. He clarified that the collected fresh water is not fit for consumption but can be used for irrigation purposes.

“There are lots of trees around the coastline. They are irrigated with water produced hundreds of kilometres away. The idea is to use this technology to produce water naturally to irrigate these trees,” said the professor at Khalifa University who founded the start-up in 2019.

“Our starting point was November 2019. In the past 6 to 8 months, we have been in the prototyping phase. We have installed different prototypes across Abu Dhabi in collaboration with entities like Abu Dhabi Ports. We have installed some in our family farm to see how it works in a real environment.”

The prototype installed on Reem Island is able to collect between 500ml to 1 litre daily, and the target is to hit 5 litres.

“These prototypes are meant to establish the baseline. With further investment and advancement in technology, he is confident of reaching up to 160 litres. We will need 3 to 5 years to break even and get a return on investment. Once we generate revenue, we can try to reach the theoretical limit of 160 litres,” said the Abu Dhabi national, who has done his PhD in chemical engineering.

Dr Alhassan is now trying to launch a pilot on a larger scale and looking for investors.

“A pilot will allow us to test many different elements to enhance technology so that we can produce more water. Our idea is to develop it further to produce more water per square meter of area and use it for the concept of floating farms. Water can then be used immediately to grow crops.”

The model can also be scaled up depending on the needs of the client, said Vishnu Pillai, co-founder at Manhat.

“Our floating farm solution will benefit coastline cities where the looming threat of rising sea levels due to climate change is especially high.”

Dr Alhassan has been able to spread the word on the project through participation in different programmes at Khalifa University and Masdar, and at events like Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.

He has been awarded the Mohamed Bin Rashid Medal for Scientific Excellence for his academic and research works.

Recently, Manhat was the winner of the Thought for Food 2022 Mena Agri-Food-Tech Challenge hosted by the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and United Nations FAO at the Food for Future Summit, Expo 2020 Dubai.