Aqua-4D: Our role in combating climate change
With record temperatures, super storms, raging infernos, and massive flooding, 2018 has been a bad year for Planet Earth. But it may also go down as the year humanity was shocked into making meaningful changes. This week saw the release of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report which warned, in no uncertain terms, about the dangers of exceeding a 1.5C global temperature rise. It called not only on national governments but also companies and individuals to make wholesale changes to minimize the risks.
With this in mind, we decided to illustrate the ways that Aqua-4D minimizes its carbon footprint and promotes a sustainable way forward, with the hope of showing that a successful business does not need to come at the expense of the climate, but that it can be a force for positive change.
As Aqua-4D’s CEO, Eric Valette, states: “The core values of our company are completely in line with a sustainable world. The company is proud to be doing a lot both in its own actions and through the sustainable agriculture promoted by its systems. This is a global challenge which overrides all the other considerations for our planet and the next generations, and we are highly motivated and dedicated to rising to this challenge.”
Here are some of the ways in which the company does this:
If humanity is to roll back the worst effects of climate change, this needs changes in both energy sources and energy consumption. The Aqua-4D system (a modular device and control unit which can be attached to any irrigation system) uses only 10W per 21.6 m3/h – less than a standard electric lamp. Moreover, its inherent portability means it can be easily connected to solar panel arrays.
The more efficient use of water and flow rates which the device enables also has positive knock-on effects on energy consumption. A 2015 analysis compared the baseline energy which would have been used by a pump-set prior to the installation of an Aqua-4D system. A pump uses an average of 900 Wh (Watt-hour) to treat 1 m3; there are generally 20% water savings with the Aqua-4D system, representing savings of 180 Wh per m3 or 2880 kWh/h.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has called water scarcity one of the “greatest challenges of our time”. If the worst fears are realized, the coming centuries could see huge swathes of land across the world drying up, making efforts to minimize water consumption – and the efficient use of available water – all the more imperative.
Aqua-4D’s technology enables plants to absorb what they need in the right quantities and improves water retention in the soil, resulting in water savings of up to 30% through more efficient irrigation. The effect of the system on the structure of water leads to increased yields with less water used.
Solving soil salinity
Repeated irrigation with hard (saline) water can eventually leave soil unworkable, which has led to a ‘salinity crisis’ affecting up to 33% of agricultural land worldwide. Instead of having to abandon precious land, irrigation with the Aqua-4D system allows for salts to be leached away below the root zone.
Irrigation with saline/brackish water
The same feature of the system, in breaking down the minerals in water, allows for irrigation with low-quality, hard or even saline water. In the case of saline or brackish water, this leads to significant energy consumption compared with Reverse Osmosis (RO) methods. A baseline high-consuming RO system consumes 4 kWh to treat 1 m3, while the Aqua-4D system consumes just 1 Wh.
Due to the plant’s more efficient use of irrigation water, growers typically see increased yields of around 25%. On average, according to the different markets and their combined margin Emission Factor (EF), this is estimated at between 50,000 kg – 1500,000 CO2 reduction per Aqua-4D system over 15 years.
Elimination of chemicals
Due to the effect of the Aqua-4D system on biofilm and organic matter, there is no need to use potentially harmful chemicals to solve clogging in both irrigation systems and animal feed drippers. Nematode infections can also be treated in a sustainable and non-invasive way, without the need for chemical nematicides.
Green, clean tech and sustainable development
Tellingly, the company behind Aqua-4D – Planet Horizons Technology (PHT) – was singled out in December 2015 by the Technology Fund of the FOEN (Federal Office for the Environment) in its native Switzerland. This Fund is a government initiative which promotes “innovative technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the consumption of resources, support the use of renewable energy and increase energy efficiency”.
The company is also pleased to contribute to a total of 11 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out by the United Nations, including Zero Hunger, Affordable and Clean Energy, Climate Action and Responsible Consumption and Production.
If humanity is indeed to shift its course by 2030, as is called for by the IPCC report, changes are needed at all levels, and where sometimes governments neglect these responsibilities, private enterprises can lead the way with sustainable business which works in harmony with the planet and not against it.