Mark Tester

Mark Tester, professor of plant science

Before becoming a professor of plant science and the associate director of the Center for Desert Agriculture at KAUST, Mark Tester received his BSc with honours in plant sciences from the University of Adelaide. He then completed a PhD at the University of Cambridge, where he worked alongside Enid MacRobbie in the study of potassium ion channels.

Since moving to KAUST, Tester has delivered on the promise that lies at the heart of his research, founding agritech company Red Sea Farms to apply his research to the challenges of environmental sustainability and economic viability. 

Much of Tester’s current research revolves around salinity and developing crops that grow in salty soils or can be irrigated with saline water. He focuses on two main approaches. One is taking a crop, such as tomatoes, and engineering it to become more salt tolerant.

The other is to take a salt-tolerant plant, like sea asparagus, and turn it into a commercial crop. Both approaches could provide a sustainable alternative to humanity’s use of freshwater within agricultural production. 

With KAUST acting primarily as a research university, Tester’s average day consists of tackling a diversity of research problems, delivering research outputs through published papers and students’ theses, and developing Red Sea Farms. Outside academia, he enjoys spending time outdoors, with cycling, swimming and gardening his three main hobbies. However, he does admit that summers in Saudi Arabia can be a bit too hot and humid – even for an Australian.

Find out more about Mark Tester's research at KAUST.

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