Gates Foundation

Bill Gates Visits KAUST and the HALO Group

Prof McCabe introduced Mr Gates to the Hydrology and Land Observation (HALO) group, which undertakes research across a range of water resource and water security related topics. Apart from broadly discussing issues related to climate change, flash-flood prediction and remote sensing, Dr Rasmus Houborg and PhD student Haleem Shah described their work investigating the monitoring of plant physiological responses to stress, particularly as a result of increasing salinity and water and nutrient limitation. These research efforts are designed to allow remote assessment of plant health, either using airborne sensors or satellite based systems. To this end, the HALO‚Äč group is collaborating with Dr Neil Smith and PhD student Luca Passone, founders of the KAUST Seed Fund company FalconVIZ, who explained their work to Mr Gates on the use of quad-copters for routine mapping of agricultural systems. We are awaiting delivery of two custom-designed airborne systems that will expand the spectral imaging capabilities of the group, and allow novel research into crop health and function as well as traditional hydrological monitoring and observation.

Prof McCabe and Dr Houborg explain to Mr Bill Gates some of the spectral mapping and plant physiological monitoring of agricultural systems that the group is working on. This research is related to the work of PhD student Haleem Shah, who is examining the impacts of salinity and nutrient stresses on crop systems.