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Eurostars NILE project

A new irrigation technology is helping plant growers in Europe in Europe save up to 30% of their normal water requirements. Hydrip® combines a system of embedded tubes in the soil that squirt water into the ground at controlled intervals, soil conditioners that improve the water retention saving capacity of the soil and the necessary machinery to install the technology.

This novel irrigation method did not emerge overnight. Hydrip® was honed and refined for three years under the NILE project, funded by the intergovernmental organisation EUREKA and its joint Eurostars programme with the EU. NILE brought together the Austria-based SME Hydrip and a handful of other SMEs, research institutes and universities based variously in Germany and Portugal.

PENETRATING THE IRRIGATION MARKET

Its aim, says Hydrip technical director Stefan Glaser, was to bring the technology up to a standard whereby it could be used in “two concrete applications” in wine and asparagus growing areas of Europe. Wine and asparagus were not chosen by accident – their high market value allows producers who invest in the technology to expect a short-term return on their investment.

Since the introduction of HYDRIP™ in the project’s pilot areas of Germany and Portugal, the efficiency of the technology has attracted other customers including citrus fruit farmers in Spain and vegetable farmers in Egypt.

The importance of saving water during irrigation is put into perspective by Glaser: “A 30% saving doesn’t mean much on its own, but when you consider that in Egypt, for example, standard drip irrigation of one hectare of land requires 8,000 cubic metres of water a year, then a 3% saving means avoiding using 2.6 million litres per hectare per year. By comparison on average one person uses about 100 litres per day.”

“Pilot tests on wine-growing in Portugal show that Hydrip® has great potential for the market, not just in Portugal but the rest of the world.”

 

Water saving irrigation technology has been developing over the years. The most common form of irrigation, particularly in developing countries, continues to be flood irrigation where vast quantities of water are used to soak the land and plants. In more recent times, pressurised technologies like sprinkler and drip irrigation have also emerged.

Sub-surface drip irrigation is a relative newcomer to the irrigation market. Said Portuguese environmental studies centre CEIFA researcher and director Suhita Osório-Peters: “Hydrip® has its competitors, of course. But our research into it and the success of its pilot tests on wine-growing in Portugal show that it has great potential for the market, not just in Portugal but the rest of the world. It’s particularly useful for wine-growing which needs controlled water irrigation.”

Now that Hydrip® is on the market, the company is looking to expand its use into other areas including for watering public gardens. Water-saving technologies like Hydrip® are assured of a market principally because dry regions of the world, especially where populations are growing and there is a high demand for agricultural produce, need to find cost-effective water-saving technologies to help irrigate land.