Arada inks deal to bring sustainable water treatment tech to the UAE

The agreement will see the introduction of an environmentally friendly biological engineering process that can help resolve water scarcity

With the goal of bringing a new form of sustainable water treatment to the UAE and wider Middle East, developer Arada said it is investing in a major new research and development (R&D) facility in Sharjah.

The developer said it has inked a joint venture agreement with Hungarian water tech firm Biopolus, Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park (SRTIP) and Metito. The deal will enable the development and implementation of upgraded versions of the existing Biopolus technology, allowing them to be patented, tested and integrated within projects in Sharjah, a statement from Arada said.

“With COP28 being held in the UAE later on this year, we believe it’s important that private-sector companies commit to supporting the government by introducing greener and more sustainable technologies and processes wherever possible. This partnership is in line with one of Arada’s key goals: to be a leader in the field of sustainable development. Trees and green landscaping play a central role in all of Arada’s communities, and it’s vital that these areas can be nourished in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner,” said Ahmed Alkhoshaibi, Group CEO of Arada.

According to the developer, the R&D facility is designed to be a living, learning laboratory that can serve as an inspiring and innovative space for students and researchers to study ecological engineering and circular economy principles in a practical and hands-on manner. The long-term goal for the facility will be to create an improved ‘Biopolus 2.0’ version of the technology, while also turning Sharjah into a global hub for the process.

In mid January 2023, Arada awarded a US $129mn contract for the Vida Aljada Hotel Complex to GAC.

The agreement will also result in the construction and operation of a water treatment plant that will treat, recycle and produce treated water to use for the irrigation of landscapes in both Aljada and SRTIP. The plant will use the Biopolus Metabolic Network Reactor (MNR) technology, a biological engineering process that mimics natural processes by using artificial root structures containing microbial biofilms to clean water rapidly, efficiently, sustainably and without the use of chemicals, the firm explained.

HE Hussein Al Mahmoudi, CEO of Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park remarked, “Effective water reuse is of primary importance, especially in a part of the world where water scarcity is such a critical issue. We are delighted that Sharjah will now become a global hub for a technology that has huge potential to conserve this precious resource. We’d like to welcome Biopolus to the UAE, and to thank our valuable partners at Arada and Metito for their role in this critical partnership.”

The modular, flexible and odour-free nature of the Biopolus technology means that each plant can be placed directly in any urban environment and can be designed in an attractive manner that blends in with its surroundings. As a result, the first plant in the Middle East is based on a 9,900sqm plot on the boundary between SRTIP and the Aljada megaproject in Sharjah. Known as a BioMakery, the state-of-the-art Sharjah plant is characterised by its unique architecture and green and leafy exterior, the statement outlined.

Fady Juez, Managing Director of Metito added, “Our founding principles are impact, sustainability and innovation and with this partnership we are aligning with our core commitments to the communities we serve. We look forward to bringing our high value engineering capabilities, our global experience and local presence and knowhow to this mix of synergistic partners. We see huge potential for this technology and its applications, not just for Sharjah but for the entire region. We must collaborate in advancing water solutions to meet the growing demands and the global supply challenges and this project takes us a step closer to creating a positive, lasting impact to our ecosystem”.

In mid February 2023, Arada successfully closed a $50mn second tap of sukuk.

Construction on the first phase of the Sharjah plant is currently underway and is scheduled to be completed in April 2024, with US engineering firm Jacobs serving as lead consultant. The first phase will have the capacity to recycle 5,500cu/m of water a day, with two further phases providing the capacity to recycle 16,500cu/m a day. Further plants are also planned to serve Arada’s other projects, Arada stated.

Istvan Kenyeres, Founder and CTO of Biopolus commented, “As a biotechnologist and ecological engineer I have learnt how to design thriving and beautiful living systems to recycle our precious water, combining nature’s forces and human intelligence. The new facilities that we are building in Sharjah will not just demonstrate the full potential of this technology in a challenging climate but provide more: it will create the infrastructure and the partnership ecosystem for a significant impact on a global scale. We are also excited to work with our partners in the UAE to test new and exemplary ways of water-based urban circularity technologies and solutions.”

Over the long term, Arada and its partners hope to integrate a number of other processes into the Sharjah plant, including recycling, community functions and energy recovery technologies, helping it to become a local hub for the urban circular economy.

In late March 2023, the Big Project Middle East editorial team said that its inaugural Future of Water Summit will focus on water security in the region.


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