Technology uses condensation and renewable energy to irrigate crops

Alex Whitebrook/ May 15, 2018/ News/ 0 comments

A Perth-based company has developed an irrigation system to grow crops using just renewable energy and humidity from the air.

The system is called Irrigation By Condensation (IBC), and is the invention of Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technologies co-founder Boaz Wachtel.

Having lived in the Middle East, Mr Wachtel said he was aware of the constant struggle farmers faced with water scarcity.

“I was always interested in developing technologies and helping farmers, either poor or not, around the world, because I think people underestimate the difficulties farmers have,” he said.

“This allows individual farmers or communities to create a food cycle by using the humidity in the air.

“We’ve tested it on five crops — lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers and wheat — and we were able to sustain the entire cycle of growth from planting to harvest.”

While the science behind the technology is complicated, the concept is simple.

Think about the way water, or humidity, condenses on the outside of a cold pint of beer.

Roots’ IBC system works much the same way — minus the beer.

Chilled water, stored in an insulated water tank, is pumped through pipes throughout the crop.

That cold water condenses moisture in the air on the outside of these pipes, which drips onto the plants.

“We usually irrigate at night, because at night it is high humidity … even in the desert. During the day the solar power charges a small battery to circulate the cold water in the tank,” Mr Wachtel said.

“It irrigates plants with cold condensate, which reduces the evaporation during the day, therefore less water is needed to irrigate the plants as opposed to other irrigation systems.”

Mr Wachtel said the company planned to offer the system to small and medium-scale farmers within two years.

But he admitted that scaling the technology would take some time.

“It would have to be a modular build up,” Mr Wachtel said.

“As you extend the pipes to long distances, the water heats up. So, you need to have shorter runs.

“Eventually I think we will be able to offer this technology for large plantations.”

The proof of concept happened during a rainless summer and autumn at Roots’ experimental farm, Beit Halevy, in central Israel, 2017.

The IBC technology sustained the growth of lettuce, spinach, and tomatoes with only condensed moisture from the air, with no additional water used for irrigation from any water source.

Mr Wachtel said the results were relevant to farmers in arid regions of Australia, particularly Western Australia.

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