Ryan Lefers

Research Scientists

Agriculture Engineer




Research Interests

My research interests revolve around the food/water/energy nexus, especially as it relates to controlled environment agriculture. How can we grow more food with less water and energy? How can we strike a balance to achieve food and water security without significant use of fossil fuels? How can we provide clean, fit-for-purpose water where it is needed at an economical cost and with a low environmental footprint? Greenhouses, vertical farming, hydroponics, and aquaponics systems with associated support systems and inputs, including cooling, heating, water, energy, light, nutrients, and labor must all be managed and balanced to strike an equilibrium that is beneficial to society and the planet

Selected Publications

  • Hollow fibre membrane-based liquid desiccant humidity control for controlled environment agriculture, R. Lefers, Srivatsa Bettahalli NM, Fedoroff NV, Ghaffour N, Davies PA, et al. Biosystems Engineering (2019) 
  • Proof of Concept: Pozzolan Bricks for Saline Water Evaporative Cooling in Controlled Environment Agriculture, R. Lefers, P. Davies, N. Federoff, N. Madhoun, M. Tester, and T. Leiknes, Applied Engineering in Agriculture (2018)
  • Vacuum membrane distillation of liquid desiccants utilizing hollow fiber membranes, R. Lefers, N.M.S. Bettahalli, N. Fedoroff, S.P. Nunes, and T. Leiknes, Separation and Purification Technology (2018)
  • Liquid Desiccant Dehumidification and Regeneration Process to Meet Cooling and Fresh Water Needs of Desert Greenhouses, R. Lefers, N.M.S. Bettahalli, P. Davies, N. Fedoroff, S.P. Nunes, and T.Leiknes, Desalination and Water Treatment (2016)
  • Seeking a consensus: water management principles from the monotheistic scriptures, R. Lefers, R. Maliva, and T. Missimer, Journal of Water Policy (2015)


  • Ph.D., Environmental Science and Engineering, KAUST, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, 2017
  • M.S. Agricultural Engineering, South Dakota State University, Brookings, South Dakota, 2006
  • B.S. Agricultural Engineering, South Dakota State University, Brookings, South Dakota, 2004 

Professional Profile

  • 2019-Present: Research Scientist, KAUST, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia
  • 2018-2019: Postdoctoral fellow, KAUST, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia
  • 2013-2018: PhD Student, KAUST, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia
  • 2006-2013: Professional Environmental Engineer, Wenck Associates, Maple Plain, Minnesota

Scientific and Professional Membership

  • American Society of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineers (ASABE)
  • International Society for Horticulture Science (ISHS)
  • European Desalination Society (EDS) 


  • 3rd Place Finish Entrepreneurship World Cup, 2019
  • Sponsored Speaker, AgriTech Aquaculture and Food Safety Forum, Oman, 2018
  • Visiting Scientist Award, Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture, Abu Dhabi, 2018 
  • Best Poster Award, European Desalination Association, EuroMED 2015
  • American Society of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineers (ASABE) “New Face of Engineering” Professional Nominee, 2009 
  • Winner Air and Waste Management Association’s (AWMA) student research poster contest, 2005

KAUST Affiliations

Prof. Mark Tester's Group

CDA - Center for Desert Agriculture

BESE - Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering Division

Research Interests Keywords

Food/water/energy nexus controlled environment agriculture saltwater-based agriculture aquaponics horticulture lighting circular agriculture systems