Iyris gets $16m to scale tech for ‘underserved’ growers in harsh conditions

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Iyris's flagship product – SecondSky – is a transparent heat-blocking greenhouse cover that blocks excessive heat, maintains consistent temperatures, and reduces heat stress on plants
Iyris's flagship product – SecondSky – is a transparent heat-blocking greenhouse cover that blocks excessive heat, maintains consistent temperatures, and reduces heat stress on plants

Related tags greenhouse climate smart agriculture

Iyris (formerly RedSea), which helps growers in the most difficult farming environments around the world to increase crop yields, reduce input costs and risk, and extend growing seasons, has completed a $16 million Series A fundraise. Now, the hard work starts again, it tells AgTechNavigator.

Originally conceived by scientists at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, the company has developed innovative technologies to enable commercial farming in hot and arid climates globally.

The company says its products tackle the real and increasingly urgent challenges of extreme heat and water scarcity in agriculture.

Its flagship product – SecondSky – is a transparent heat-blocking greenhouse cover that blocks excessive heat, maintains consistent temperatures, and reduces heat stress on plants. SecondSky, which won the prestigious Davidson Prize in 2023 for outstanding agricultural innovation, has delivered reductions in energy usage by over 40% and water consumption by 30% at customer installations.

Iyris is selling SecondSky polycarbonate, polyethylene, nets, and soon to be launched shade screens, to customers growing fresh produce in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, Mexico and North America.

It has also developed plant genetics via a novel hybridization process that has the potential to breed resiliency to salinity, heat, and drought across a broad range of crops, ensuring stress resistant, dependable food production. Iyris says its platform of proprietary technologies reduces energy and water consumption by up to 90% in their target markets.

The fundraise round was led by Ecosystem Integrity Fund (EIF), a San Francisco-based climate and sustainability fund supporting high-growth companies that drive a positive environmental impact. It was supported by current and new institutional investors including Global Ventures, Dubai Future District Fund, Kanoo Ventures, Globivest, and Bonaventure Capital.

The proceeds will support increased sales of SecondSky greenhouse covers and nets. It will also fund continued development of the company’s heat blocking products and resilient plant genetics.

Iyris estimates the global market for greenhouse covers is worth $6 billion in recurring annual sales. Yet growers in harsh and volatile conditions are ‘underserved’ by innovation in this area, according to Sasha Brown, partner at EIF. “EIF has been studying the impact of increasingly extreme weather on agriculture,” she said. “Iyris’ suite of products are tailored for growers in harsh and volatile conditions, who have been underserved historically by agri-climate tech innovation. These growers, who often operate on thin margins, have few options to better manage their farms to reduce the risk of crop loss, increase yields, and reduce water and energy consumption.

John Keppler headshot 3
'The moment SecondSky is installed, crops are protected from a massive degree of the harmful near infrared heat radiation, without compromising the light that crops need to grow': John Keppler, executive chairperson of Iyris 

“We have invested in Iyris because we believe there are few companies that have such tremendous potential to become a critical partner for a mass market of growers, as they seek to adapt their operations to withstand and mitigate changing climate.”

John Keppler, executive chairperson of Iyris, told AgTechNavigator​ the fundraise is an acknowledgment of the hard work the company has done to create ‘truly impactful products’ and the potential that they have for the global farming community.

Now, “the hard work starts again”, he said. “We have a clear growth plan to scale up the global sales of our SecondSky infrared heat radiation blocking covers, expanding the network of manufacturers and distributors and reaching out to farmers and growers in hot climates. We will also continue development of our genetics business.

Key to driving uptake is “physically experiencing SecondSky and the data we have to demonstrate that there are tangible benefits once this material is deployed”, he explained. “It is very much a ‘see-feel-review’ experience. Anyone that walks under SecondSky, compared to a traditional plastic greenhouse cover can feel the difference immediately. Understanding the metrics in terms of reduced input costs, increased yield and extended growing season provides empirical support of the benefits it can bring to their business.”

The company intentionally set out to create a technology that is as easy to adopt as possible, he stressed. “SecondSky products are designed as a one-for-one replacement of traditional agricultural covers. It is installed in exactly the same way, no new techniques are required for deployment and the technology starts working from the second it is installed.

"This complex simplicity belies the groundbreaking innovation of integrating the technology into these products. What our customers do understand is that the moment SecondSky is installed, their crops are protected from a massive degree of the harmful near infrared heat radiation, without compromising the light their crops need to grow.”

Why is investment in new agtech too often outside of farmers’ means?

But is this an affordable solution for growers? “Farmers in controlled agriculture must periodically invest to replace their covers (on average it’s three years for polyethylene, eight for polycarbonate,” said Keppler. “There is a premium on the price of a SecondSky replacement above that cost. Most farmers will achieve a return on investment for that premium within a single annual crop season, if not sooner. 

“Based on what we have seen, farmers generate increased profits within the first crop cycle after SecondSky is installed in their farms to cover the premium paid for the material compared to traditional plastic greenhouse covers.

In designing east to adopt products, a key design imperative was to ensure that was not just in terms of the physical deployment as a one for one replacement, but to ensure that the products are accessible to the 70% of the world’s farmers that are operating in low to mid tech cultivation. For them, investment in new agtech is all too often outside of their means. SecondSky is an investment that is affordable and delivers immediate impact.”

Another challenge for the company going forward is getting regulatory approval in its target markets for its plant genetics solutions. But field trial results auger well, Keppler said.

“In field trials for processing tomatoes, for example we have seen impressive increases in crop yield. Of course, the results need to be validated over sufficient time for us to publish these results and then seek regulatory approval. We are well under way in this process.” 

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