More food with less water I am Tom van Hulten. I am working at Growbalance advising company. My responsibility is to make sure that the crops are growing well and keep healthy. The main goal of this experience is to get the best yeld with the least amount of water. I am doctor Jaqueline Baar. The function I have in this project is giving advice on the use of sustainable soil technology, particularly with plant beneficial fungi that act as bio fertilizers. The substrate you see here is mixed with the mycorrhizae. The mycorrhizal fungi is fungus that brings over the nutrients and the water to the roots. So it is connected. And then the roots take up the nutrients and the water, bring it up to the shoots, to the green parts of the plant. And in exchange, the plants provide sugars from the photosynthesis to the fungus. The main goal of this experiment is to investigate whether we can grow crops, like tomatoes, cucumbers etc, with as little water use as possible. It is very interesting to use a low quantity of water, because one of the big worldwide issues is the limitation of water That tomato plants have grown to this size in four weeks. So the plants that are untreated with the mycorrhizal fungi are smaller and they also have a different color. As you can see, they are a little bit darker and this indicates that they have a shortage of nutrients. This is not that strange, because the substrate was treated with half the amount of fertilizers and they do not have the helpers, the mycorrhizal fungi, to provide them with the nutrients. And here the mycorrhizal fungi obtains all the nutrients that are available in the substrate, although it is still only the half amount of fertilizers. But they can take it up as their hyphae, and here only the roots can take up the nutrients. So that is less efficient than the mycorrhizal fungi. By planting already vigorous and strong plants with a good root system, The chances that they survive with low water gift is much higher. We expect that we can grow the crops with 90% less water, but the crops can also die if there is too little water. What also could happen is that the microorganisms are not as functional as we expect, and that the crops do not develop so well, or get sick, or do not produce the amount of yield we are aiming for. We use this kind of trays which are 18 cm high. We do this to make sure that the primary roots are growing down, and we want to plant them safely in the soil without damaging them. That is why the plant can grow down to the water, and why we are able to use less water. It is very important that the capillair stays intact. Otherwise, the plant cannot take up the water. The water can come up in the ground to the plant with the capillary system. When you dig the soil with a machine, the soil is loose and the capillair of the soil is destroyed. That is why we use a pin to make the hole for the plant. Now, the capillair stays intact. That is very important. We put in extra mycorrhizae and after that, we place the Waterboxx on it. To connect the plants with the soil, we give them one liter of water. Not in the box, but in the hole where the plants are standing. To make sure that the plants get water, we made two ropes that come out on the bottom side. The ropes are the equipment that give water to the soil and the plants. So we fill up the box with water, and the ropes make sure that the box is not empty within 15 minutes. It takes 3 or 4 weeks. The plant always gets some drips of water. When we leave the box open, animals can drink out of it and the amount of evaporation is high. That is why we cover it with a plastic plate like this. Then, a lot of evaporation is already prevented. But, to save the rainwater that falls on the box, we have a real cover. We put the cover on the box like this, and we close it. Now, the water that falls on the box goes through these blue holes inside the box. The water can only come out via the ropes, to the plants. The biggest challenge for us is to use 90% less water and get the highest yeld possible. But the biggest challenge is for the plant itself, that needs the water for the process in the plant, to take the minerals, to grow and to cool itself. So when it is getting very hot, the plant uses the water to cool itself, by evaporating. And that is the biggest challenge for the plant. Can it grow, with this little amount of water? These tomato plants are now 7 weeks old. They were not treated with mycorrhizal fungi and bacteria, but they received the usual fertilization treatment. As you can see, the plant grows well. And we think this is a good plant. But if we compare it with mycorrhizal fungi and bacteria, we will see tremendous differences. These tomato plants have also been seeded at March 12, and have not received any fertilizers, but they have received mycorrhizal fungi and bacteria. These plants received at least 50% or 60% less water as usual. So the mycorrhizae and bacteria not only help the plant to take up nutrients, but they help the plant to take up water as well. This plants look healthy, vital, and they already form buds. This means that they are going to flower soon, and set the first fruits. And that is rather rapid after 7 weeks already. We are doing this big trial with the Waterboxxes. It is of course always interesting to make a competition between the common system and the Waterboxx system. That is why we planted the plants here directly in the soil, and give them water like a normal grower does. Then, we will look what the best way is. These pepper plants have been seeded a month ago. What we see here are the non treated mycorrhizal plants, and these plants are treated with mycorrhizal fungi. You can see that there is a clear difference between the non treated plants and the treated plants. And this difference is very pronounced. This is why we use the rhizotron. Here you can see the root development, which is really poor for the small, non mycorrhizal plant. While the plant that is treated with the mycorrhizal fungi has a very well developed mycorrhizal root system. We make the choice not to heat the greenhouse, so that we grow like we did 50 years ago. That is why the plants do not pick up the climate when the sun comes up, because they are not warmed up, and the temperature rises too fast. That is why the plants are getting a bit weak, they are going to hang. They cannot stand the evaporation of the greenhouse. This is why they are not growing so fast. When we heat the greenhouse in the morning, the plant can take up the daily climate better. And we do not have CO2. So we have almost nothing. No CO2, almost no water and no heating in the morning. That is why these plants do not give an optimum production of a hydroponic system. We only do this on basic elements. I am Pieter Hoff from Holland. I am the inventor of the Groasis Waterboxx. The Waterboxx functions in a way that is actually quite simple. It has a cover that is collecting water in two ways: through condensation or through rain. The water is getting into the bucket and the bucket has the model of a donut. In the middle of that donut, we plant the tree, or in this case the vegetables. Because of the fact that the bucket is on top of the soil, and the water is in it, the temperature below the box remains very cool. So even when the sun shines on the soil, or when the air temperature is very high, the temperature below the Waterboxx is still not higher than 25°C. This means that the roots never have stress, they always have a cool temperature and that makes them growing very fast and deep. And that is actually the trick. If the roots grow very deep, the plant will have sufficient water to survive during the hot hours of the day. The reason that I have started this trial is that while traveling all over the world, I have seen the problems that people have if they want to grow vegetables, or if they want to grow food. They have little capital, they often do not even have energy for pumps, there is a water problem, they cannot even pay the fertilizers. So if we can develop a method to grow vegetables with very little water, without using energy and without using fertilizers, then we can actually help poor farmers to produce sufficient food for the people in the cities. There are about 300 million poor farmers in the world that have a problem to grow in the modern way with hydroponics. If you want to grow with drip irrigation, you need to dig a well and a well costs you 5000 dollars. You need electricity for the pumps, which is also very expensive. So you cannot grow vegetables on a small scale if you want to do that with drip irrigation. With this method, any family can buy 5 or 10 boxes and then produce food for their own use. What I actually hope is that when I have proved that this principle of growing works well, that governments or NGO’s will develop instruments, microcredit instruments, for poor farmers so that they are able to buy the Groasis Waterboxx and produce their food with it in a very efficient and cheap way. When you see this tomatoes here, the first question you probably have is how many kilos per square meter will you get with this new system? When we are counting, we count an amount of 300 tomatoes per square meter. More or less. The weight of a tomato is, more or less, 35 grams per fruit. So that means that we have between 10 and 12 kilos of this cocktail tomatoes per plant. The production in the hydroponic system is between 45 and 50 kilos, at most. When I count 12 kilos, it is more than 25% of the yield we make, when you compare it to the hydroponic system with all the equipment they have. Good climate, heating systems, CO2, fertilizers, enough water and early starting, very early startings. So this system works very well. We are going to look at the major difference between our trial with the Waterboxx in Elshout and a complete new nursery that makes use of a hydroponic system. When you have a hydroponic system, the plant grows on rockwool. Rockwool can contain water. The plants get water very precisely with the dripping system. A pen with an infuse does this. Every infuse gives the same amount of water. Every dripper can give 2 liters an hour. When you compare the hydroponic system with the Waterboxx system in Elshout, you see some huge differences. Because when you heat the greenhouse, you can start growing tomatoes much earlier. The tomatoes here are put in the greenhouse at the beginning of December, and they harvest till the beginning of November. They get up to 60 kilos per square meter with the hydroponic system. With CO2, with fertilizers, with a heating system, with everything on it. A huge greenhouse, very high, very light. And in Elshout, with the Waterboxxes, we have an older greenhouse. That greenhouse is about 30 years old. We have no fertilizers, we have much less water, we do not have CO2, we have no heating system, so we are producing in a way they did 30 or 40 years ago. And we get an amount of 8 to 12 kilos tomatoes per square meter. That is what we get in Elshout. But the season is much shorter, because we start in April, and we end in September. When you compare the amount of water we use with the Waterboxx, and the water used in the hydroponic system, you can say that we use 320 liters of water in the soil outside the Waterboxx per square meter in Elshout. In the box, we use 40 liters of water per square meter. And here we use 700 liters of water per square meter. That is what you have to compare with each other. And yes, with the hydroponic system the production is much higher, but when you compare it to the 320 liters out of the box, and the 40 liters in the box, you see that there is a big difference. We picked off all the fruits, so this is the end of the season for the Waterboxx We are here at the company ‘Groeibalans’, and today we are going to see the conclusions and we are going to make the recommendations. When you visit our website www.groasis.com, you can find all the information about these trials. But here, we give you the main conclusions. The best group to do tests with are the tomatoes. And the results of those tomato groups are very interesting. We have had a test without mycorrhizae, 3 tests with mycorrhizae, and one test with drip irrigation. Of course, when you use most water, you will have the highest crop. So we have put the crop of drip irrigation on 100%. We have given 85% less water to the other groups. So with the Waterboxx, we have only used 15% of the normal water use. Now here is the interesting thing about the crop. The crop without mycorrhizae, with the Waterboxx, has given 58%, compared to the drip irrigation. Then we have put 3 types of mycorrhizae. 1 mycorrhizae has given 67% of crops compared to the drip irrigation. 1 mycorrhizae has given 82%, and 1 mycorrhizae has given 84%. Which means that it is very clear that you can use mycorrhizae to replace fertilizers and have good results with them. The Waterboxx is a very good solution when you do not have enough water or when the water is too expensive or dirty to use dripping systems. And when you compare the Waterboxx with the dripping systems, We can get up to 80% of the dripping system production, more or less, with a combination of mycorrhizae and a good system and a good treatment of the plants Then you can get that production with 85% less water. So when you do not have enough water in the area, and it is very dry, you can use the Waterboxx to grow vegetables with a good production. In the experiments of last year, we have tried to use less water and we have tried to replace fertilizers with mycorrhizae. We can conclude the following: you can use less water, up to 85% and you can still have up to 80% of your crops. The other thing that we have concluded is that: yes, you can replace fertilizers with mycorrhizae. But not every mycorrhizae is a good mycorrhizae. Mycorrhizae is another word for fungus, and you know that for instance botrytis is a bad fungus. Which means that when you use mycorrhizae, you first have to do trials in order to find whether the mycorrhizae that you want to apply is a good one for your crop. Now, what we found is that there is a difference of over 25% in production between one mycorrhizae and another. So Groasis will do more investigations, more experiments, and in the coming years, we will offer you mycorrhizae that will give those good results, and that can help you to have good crops, as a replacement for fertilizers. Thank you very much, and please follow our experiments and video’s in the coming years.