New water technology is transforming coir rehydration for UK growers

The UK fruit growers working with a transformational new water additive technology are hailing “spectacular” results after seeing water usage cut by almost 90% when rehydrating coir bags.

Aqualatus Ca, from Lancashire-based Engage Crop Solutions, is transforming how growers use water and manage crop nutrition.

One of the first to use the water technology is leading berry grower Irek Wypasek, from New Forest Fruit Co, who said Aqualatus Ca is “making massive improvements” to the way the business operates. He said:

“It is spectacular to see when you are rehydrating coir bags with Aqualatus for the first time. Just a few drops of Aqualatus makes the water bond and bind to the coir bag and it just hoovers all the water up.

“Every grower knows how much water is wasted through run-off when rehydrating coir and just how much time and energy it takes. Aqualatus has eliminated that waste and saves a huge amount of water and energy, as well as time.”

Trials using the unique polymer-blend of Aqualatus Ca have shown that growers can use 88% less water when wetting coir slabs and that also delivers significant savings in the energy needed to run the irrigation cycles.

Commercial Director at Engage Crop Solutions, Mark Horner, says Aqualatus Ca is bringing a host of benefits to UK growers as the industry faces spiralling input costs. He explains:

“The Aqualatus technology has been trialled with growers around the world for the past 10 years and we have seen significant results, both in terms of water savings and in crop and yield quality.

“The introduction of Aqualatus Ca to UK fruit growers this year has been a huge success. It has not only transformed how they rehydrate coir bags, but also how they buffer the coir slabs during the hydration process and manage nutrition of the crop throughout the year.
“The feedback has been fantastic and it’s great to be able to help the industry find savings when everyone is facing significant pressure to help feed the nation in the face of soaring costs.”
Aqualatus Ca technology comes from the Aqualatus stable of surfactants but, unlike its predecessors, it is specifically aimed at rapid coir hydration and expansion, salt leaching and optimisation of nutritional exchange sites during the substrate hydration process.

Its unique formulation provides four polymers and wetter’s working in combination to rapidly hydrate and expand coir, eight times faster than water alone and with just 12% of normal water volume.
Within Aqualatus Ca is a substantial 18.5% calcium which during the rapid expansion catalyses the buffering process to increase the removal of levels of high cation salts naturally present in coir, allowing this to be achieved more successfully and rapidly.

Another UK grower who has trialled Aqualatus Ca, Tim Stockwell, managing director of Barnsmuir Farm in East Fife, explains: “We use more compressed coir bags due to the price, but then comes the cost and time it takes to rehydrate the bags.

“Aqualatus Ca changes that. We’ve had great results in terms of saving water and time in rehydrating coir bags. Plus, you get a much more even fill, ensuring a better spread of nutrients, and it means you can plant quicker too.”

Growers continue to use Aqualatus throughout the season too, ensuring better use of water and a more effective use of nutrients.

New Forest Fruit Co is one of the largest growers in the UK, with a turnover in excess of £20m and employing up to 600 people. Managing director Irek Wypasek adds:

“Aqualatus is making massive improvements to the business because it brings predictability and uniformity to the system.

“Because it ensures an even spread of water, nutrients and nematodes to the coir bag, it delivers consistency to your production.

“We are saving a huge amount of energy and time as a result of Aqualatus – it is making a significant difference.

“Plus, it has been instrumental in supporting plants through periods of stress like the high temperatures we saw this year. Aqualatus ensures water is always available to plants and we are also able to use much less of it in dry spells.”

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