Khadija Hasan, founder and CEO of KRISPR, an Ag-Tech start-up based in the UAE, speaks with Rabab Zehra, Executive Editor, TECHx, about the objective of Krispr, Khadija’s career, and her role as a woman in leadership.
TECHx: Take us through the mission of KRISPR. What distinguishes this agricultural-tech fusion from other Ag-Tech ventures?
Khadija: Krispr’s vision is to build food self-sufficiency by decoupling traditional agriculture from land, climate, light and water dependencies. Arable land, good climate, stable lighting and good quality water are key factors for the cultivation of food. However, we are moving into an era where we cannot take these factors for granted, especially climate and water. With rising urbanization, city centres are also major points of consumption for food, but food is largely imported, especially in the Middle East. Our goal, therefore, is to build indoor farms, ideally in brown field locations that address these issues. These would be smaller in scale but closer to points of consumption and would use existing infrastructure. As an example, our current pilot is in an old warehouse.
By combining technology and plant science, we can control for the key variables that affect plant growth – such as temperature, humidity, light etc. Essentially, we can farm anywhere. Fresh produce can also be harvested on demand and does not have to pass through a long supply chain. It is usually fresher, more nutritious and has greater flavour. It does not have to be harvested early to prepare it for a long journey nor is it ripened by force.
During and post-Covid there has also been a realisation of the need for combatting disease through building stronger immune systems and healthier eating habits. Personalized health and nutrition will play a big role moving forward and we hope to be able to support that by improving the nutritional composition of food grown indoors.
TECHx: As someone who started her career in the banking sector, I am curious to know how you ended up here as a founder & CEO of KRISPR. What motivated you to take this initiative?
Khadija: Starting Krispr was somewhat accidental. I was working on another start-up idea prior to that and pivoted to this. What appealed to me was the idea of bringing structure and predictability to growing crops. That was what initially got me started on this journey. Other motivating factors include the fact that indoor growing also uses 80-90% less water, because the excess water is purified and recirculated. In that way, it is sustainable, there is no agricultural run-off to contend with and we can grow more 365 days a year using less land. Very importantly, no pesticides are used.
Honestly, it amazes me every day that technology today can create a supportive environment for nature to thrive inside a warehouse.
TECHx: As a woman in a leadership role, how do you mentor young women who want to be leaders?
Khadija: Tough question. I find that being in a leadership role has a lot to do with taking on the responsibilities of the position and managing the negatives well. Since this is a process in itself, sharing experiences and bouncing ideas on how to handle challenges faced could be a good start.