A UK crop input specialist has created a cutting-edge technology to help solve the water shortage crisis in the Middle East by slashing billions of litres of water from use in agriculture.
Engage Crop Solutions has developed a transformational water technology called Aqualatus that allows growers to cut their water use by half while still maintaining crop quality.
The freshwater table in the Middle East is dropping by one-metre a year and the region loses an equivalent amount of water to the Dead Sea each year – that’s around 180 billion litres of water.
Experts predict the region will run out of water in less than 50 years at the current rate of use. As agriculture accounts for around 85% of water use in the Middle East, Aqualatus could save as much as 76 billion litres of freshwater a year alone.
This adds up to a potential financial saving of $135bn for agricultural businesses.
With food security back at the top of the agenda, Aqualatus can ensure growers and Governments can continue to feed the growing population in the region while still working to address one of the biggest challenges facing the Middle East, the diminishing water reserves.
A leading agricultural engineer that works across 14 countries in the Middle East, Adnan Zurba, has used Aqualatus on a range of crops. He says:
“We are in the red zone. This region faces a lot of stresses, from the heat to the soil quality but, the greatest challenge for agriculture in the Middle East is the water shortage.
“Aqualatus solves the problem and could be a critical part of the solution needed for this region.
“We’ve run trials across this region and it has proved to be a magic product, saving huge quantities of water while still delivering the crops we need.
“The war in Ukraine has cast the spotlight on the importance of food security in the region and we must find ways to grow the food we need while still protecting the precious reserves of water we have.
“We are on the brink of a green revolution, but all of the crops we need to feed people in this region require huge quantities of water.
“Aqualatus will cut the water used by agriculture in half and that will have a massive impact on the future of the region.”
Aqualatus is applied to irrigation systems and is a sophisticated blend of liquid polymers which contain billions of microscopic structures that adhere to soil particles and slow the gravitational movement of water and promotes lateral movement, thereby increasing the moisture-holding capacity of the soil.
Surface runoff and evaporation are almost completely eradicated and gravitational movement is dramatically slowed. Reducing this natural water loss allows for irrigation volumes to be much lower and timings to be shorter as the soil is more retentive.
In ten years of trials across the Middle East, Aqualatus has proved to cut water usage by 50% while maintaining or even improving plant health and crop yields.
Managing Director of Engage Crop Solutions, Peter Blezard, says: “Water has been dubbed the new ‘blue gold’ in the Middle East because the crisis is so severe.
“We have worked for 10 years to develop Aqualatus and we believe it should be a key part of the solution, ensuring agriculture can dramatically cut the amount of water it needs and helping to ensure water remains available to everyone.
“By using Aqualatus, growers can confidently cut their irrigation cycles by half and still see exceptional results without any loss of crop development, yield and quality. The technology also ensures farmers and growers can make savings in fertiliser and energy costs too by the reduction in irrigation cycles and helping to improve the soil quality.
“For the Middle East, Aqualatus could be transformational in delivering water security while also ensuring food security through crop quality, cost savings and profit growth for the growers.”
Rula Alatiyat is a Jordanian civil engineer from Dubai who first discovered Aqualatus in 2017 and has trialled it in multiple locations across the Middle East and North Africa. She says:
“There’s nothing else like Aqualatus that can deliver the same successful results. We are suffering from a severe lack of water here and Aqualatus has a big potential for this region.
“We have run a series of trials across the region and all of them have been very successful with growers using between 50-60% less water and still getting better crops.
“People in this region need to know about Aqualatus, we need to get it out there and help everyone save water as it is such a precious resource here.
“The high price of water, the shortages and the types of water available to agriculture are all very challenging. Aqualatus can change all that for growers – it is an amazing product.”
Saving the Municipality of Dubai $152m dollars (506m dirhams)
The Municipality of Dubai can spend as much as $844,000 dollars (3.1m dirhams) a day on water during summer to maintain the parks and landscaped areas of the city.
Engage has worked with the Municipality to establish if Aqualatus could reduce water usage and ease the strain on the highly waterstressed region.
When Aqualatus was applied in a year-long trial at the Al Warqa Park, it showed that the Municipality could reduce water usage by 50% while still maintaining the lush landscapes.
It cut daily water usage in the park from 87,000 litres a day to just 43,500 litres and moisture levels remained consistently high in the root zone throughout.
When applied across the city, Aqualatus will save the Municipality of Dubai $152m dollars (506m dirhams) a year and, crucially, provide water security.