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What’s the future of irrigation piping?

Customised irrigation pipes built onsite could be the future of flexible and efficient crop water supply, thanks to a new biodegradable irrigation piping product currently under development.

Irish irrigation company, AquaRoot Technologies, is developing a platform that allows pipes for irrigation and drainage to be produced more quickly and economically than current systems.

AquaRoot Technologies Founder Vincent Farrelly told the Irish Examiner that the product is for regular irrigators who want targeted irrigation without the huge costs.

“We’re looking at the typical farmer who wants to create customised tubing or pipes whenever they want to,” he said.

The system uses a basic form of 3D printing, which extrudes the polymer compound to form a shape.

“Like a tree root, it delivers water to and from, and takes water out of the soil. You can print on the surface of the ground, on concrete, asphalt or inject it into the soil, where it expands and behaves like a sponge,” Farrelly said.

“You can pull water out and pull water using capillary pressure or a suction pump. It’s just a new way of bringing liquids in and out from one place to another.”

Farrley said once the substance is exposed to air, it expands to about 50 times its size and forms a honeycomb-like structure which the water can flow through like a sponge.

“You can also create a bore in the pipe into which you can flow fluid or water through. This forms near instantaneously, and within seconds you’ve got a structure,” he said.

“We provide the equipment for the farmer or irrigation specialist and they actually make the pipes on site. These things form very quickly and the idea is that you can actually plant seeds into them and you can grow plants in them.”

Potential for cost-savings are expected to be significant, with the customised piping allowing for more targeted and flexible irrigation.

“Let’s say a situation where you’ve got overhead irrigation on a field, you’re actually watering the weeds, but with this, the water is going directly into the plants, feeding the roots. You’ll be targeting the fertiliser and the pesticide and herbicide spray,” Farrley said.

Furthermore, the biodegradable polymer can then be ploughed into the land or disposed of.

The idea recently won the Irish heat of 2017 Climate LaunchPad and the company has also worked with Athlone Institute of Technology to develop different types of polymers with different functions.

If you’d like to learn more about modernised irrigation systems, check out the Ozwater’18 technical program here.