True Cleantech Efficiency: Reducing Emissions While Saving Water

Agriculture is the most water-intensive industry on the planet, with demands only set to grow due to population growth, climate change, and other factors. At the same time, farmers want to keep increasing yields to keep up with food demands and their own business needs. There are grave concerns as to whether the supply can meet the demand for this precious resource.

Salinization is another major problem in irrigated agriculture, where salts build up in the soil. These can reach levels that are harmful to crops and yields, affecting nutrient uptake and microbiological activity. It’s estimated that up to a third of the world’s agricultural land has been damaged by salts. This is becoming a profound threat to food security.

Switzerland’s Aqua4D® offers a cutting-edge technological solution which saves water, leaches salts, and even allows for irrigation with poor quality or saline water. What’s more, these solutions also lead to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as outlined below.

Use of brackish water instead of potable water
Aqua4D skid closeup

Irrigating with Aqua4D® drastically reduces the need for technologies like Reverse Osmosis (RO). As average RO energy consumption is at least 2000 Wh per 1 m3 and only 1 Wh with Aqua4D®, this uses 2000x less electricity. As well as reducing emissions and costs, this can give greater options for supplying agricultural land with water. Moreover, potable water can be made available for human consumption where it is most needed.

Water savings

Using Aqua4D® can lead to significant water savings while reducing baseline emissions related to pumping. Depending on the situation, the baseline energy consumption by a pump is around 900 Wh per 1 m3. With Aqua4D® we generally observe 20% water savings, representing 180 Wh/m3, or an estimated 2880 kWh/ha savings – reducing water bills while conserving a precious resource.  Check out Field References for specific crop examples.

Land preservation and restoration of salinized lands

Baseline emission savings here depend on the different starting situations: usage of potable water to leach the soil, cultivation with these saturated soils with very poor yields, leaching using chemicals. Due to the way it breaks down mineral clusters, Aqua4D leaches salts away and restores barren fields, as it did for Brazil’s Agricola Famosa. Check out the video below to learn how Aqua4D saved their melon fields:

Reduction of chemical pollution (fertilizers, nematicides, acids)

The Aqua4D system deters nematodes away from the root area, meaning no invasive chemical nematicides are required at all. Meanwhile, fertilizers are more effectively dissolved in irrigation water, meaning they can be much more efficiently used. Baseline emissions here consist of CO2 emissions from production (and transportation) of fertilizers, nematicides and acids. This represents an average of 100 kg CO2/ha in nitrogen savings and 120 L/ha in nematicides savings. 

Improved yields

Due to factors such as moister soils, less salinity, and more efficient nutrient uptake, yields can often significantly improve.  In 2019, an almond producer in California reported increased production of 38%. For emissions, here we can calculate savings based on the GHGs which would otherwise have been generated to reach the same production obtained by using Aqua4D®, with additional lands cultivated. This is more complicated to estimate as it takes into account various phases of the production process. On average, according to the different markets and their combined Emission Factor (EF), the estimate ranges from 50,000 kg CO2 to 150,000 kg CO2 reduction per Aqua4D® system during the estimated lifetime.  

Green energy

In early 2020 the first 100% solar powered Aqua4D installation was set up in Chile, the first of its kind in Latin America. Many more such installations are expected to be rolled out soon, adding to already substantial emissions savings. As the system requires only 10W per 21.6 m3/h (less than a standard electric bulb), this lends itself well to being powered by solar panel arrays, especially in the sometimes challenging location of irrigation systems far from main power supplies. The rollout of solar-powered Treatment Units is a further way that Aqua4D represents a clean technology all senses, and an increasingly popular choice for growers looking to sustainably optimize the efficiency of their production.

  • Switzerland
  • Water treatment

  • Sustainability