It Keeps Growing and Growing and Growing

Pieter Hoff, a Dutch inventor, founded AquaPro in 2003 and developed the Groasis Waterboxx, often referred to as a water battery for trees. The Groasis Waterboxx is supposed to allow for the growth of food crops and trees in even the driest places on earth – even rocks!

In November 2008, the Groasis Waterboxx was awarded the Dutch Beta Dragons Science Award, based on the box’s potential to serve as a solution for ecological, climate and poverty issues.

Pieter Hoff intends to make the device available to everyone everywhere, especially underprivileged countries who suffer from mass hunger problems and erosion.  He is currently talking to Dutch banks about setting up a micro-finance scheme to enable farmers in developing countries to buy the waterboxx.

“We have cut down about 2 billion hectares of trees in the last 2000 years,” Hoff states. “If we were able to plant 2 billion hectares with trees we could solve many of the world’s problems.”

GROASIS WATERBOXX

The waterboxx is a round device made from polypropylene. Its diameter is 20”and is 10” high – about the size of a car tire. The waterboxx contains 16 liters (4 gallons) of water and 75mm (3 inches) of rain is sufficient to fill it 100%. One box full with water is enough for one year.

The waterboxx is designed to capture both rainwater and condensation, which collects in the chamber underneath the cover, and prevents the water from evaporating. The cover also helps produce condensation and captures the water from it.                                                 

 

You can plant up to three plants/seeds in the open pipe in the soil. The water enters the box through the two openings and also the cap can be used to refill if necessary. The optional wind protectors can be used if you have an area with strong winds.

The two pipes shown function as a siphon, which prevent the water in the box from evaporating. A wick inside taps into the ground beneath the box and drips a small amount of water to the plant daily. After a year, once the plants roots have grown enough to reach a water source on its own (sometimes several meters below ground) you can remove the box and the plant should thrive on its own. To reuse the waterboxx the wick must be replaced. The waterboxx can be reused at least ten times!

PLANTING TECHNIQUE

The Groasis Waterboxx can be used with seeds, young vegetables, flowering plants, and young trees. For best results the plants should be native to the area they are planted. To make the right choice before planting look around the area and take note of the oldest species that are thriving. These are the species that should be planted in the area. Once the species is chosen the planting process is simple. If using a capillary drill, clean the top layer of the soil by cutting away the weeds, but don’t get into the soil or pull the weeds – you don’t want to destroy the capillary. Dig a small planting hole, approximately 10 cm deep and 8 cm wide. Then put the sapling with the tree’s roots in the hole and fill the rest with potting soil while pushing towards the roots. Pour a few liters of water through the open center of the Groasis Waterboxx, and ensure the tree and its root make good contact with the soil. Now you can place the Groasis Waterboxx on top of it without its top, place stones in the Groasis Waterboxx to prevent it from being blown away. Continue to add water until it overflows and then place the top on the waterboxx and carefully close it to avoid unnecessary evaporation. Add the two tubes in the top openings and add some extra water on top which will go into the open center of the waterboxx allowing for the soil under the box to remain humid.

HOW IT WORKS

Mother Nature doesn´t plant but sows, by birds or grazing animals, on top of the soil; this manure functions as a cover so that a capillary column (humidity column) can develop. The seed germinates, develops its root in the capillary column and once water is found, the leaves develop and evaporation and photosynthesis can start. The problem is not growing trees on rocks or in deserts but planting and germinating – bringing the tree through the planting period until it has grown enough to get water from the capillary on its own. This is what the Groasis Waterboxx solves.

The logic behind the waterboxx is a “copy” of Mother Nature – a seed develops its roots before the actual plant starts to grow by providing itself with water before the water begins to evaporate. When using the Groasis Waterboxx, the same principle applies; therefore the tree must be as small as possible. The waterboxx does not disturb the soil and therefore maintains the existing capillary structure of the soil.

In all soil there is capillary water, as soon as the sun shines on the soil the capillary dries up, the Groasis Waterboxx prevents this. Every place on earth has rain, even the middle of the Sahara, where the rain falls and evaporates within days and that is all the rainfall for a very long time. Therefore the problem is not a lack of water but the capture and distribution of water over a period of time. The waterboxx captures this rainwater and distributes it via an ingenious standalone system which involves condensation. During the night the temperature of the surface drops lower than the surrounding air due to radiation. Due to the temperature difference between the surface of the waterboxx and the air, the air surrounding the waterboxx is cooled below the dew point and the air condenses at the surface of the waterboxx, forming droplets. The waterboxx’s design not only collects dew but enhances the generation of condensation on a daily basis. The produced and collected water is used in small daily dosages throughout the year. To avoid evaporation (loss of water), the waterboxx cover encloses the tree, therefore neither the capillary nor the distributed water dry out.  The buffer in the Groasis Waterboxx functions as an equalizer of the soil; avoiding extreme temperatures and stimulating growth.

For a more detailed and illustrated view of this process visit the AquaPro website at: http://www.groasis.com/page/uk/principle.php

Mr. Hoff recently concluded a three-year test of the Groasis Waterboxx in the Sahara desert in Morocco, an area that gets only a few inches of rainfall each year. Almost 90 percent of the trees planted using the Groasis Waterboxx survived after it was removed. A test group of trees planted without the box, but watered once a week produced the opposite result: only 10 percent survived. 

MAKING MONEY WITH TREES

The Groasis Waterboxx proposes an interesting and secure way for investing in trees. This interactive calculations document demonstrates how using the Groasis Waterboxx can save money on investment and increase revenue because of higher (biomass) yields.

 The Groasis Waterboxx is available in two options: the re-usable polypropylene model or the one-time usable biopolymer model. In the future it will also be possible to lease the waterboxx.

The graph below gives an overview of your ROI.

CONCLUSION

Mr. Hoff’s long-term business model is to provide nonexclusive, free license to anyone who wants to manufacture and distribute the Groasis Waterboxx. He plans to only ask for a small royalty per box.  Tree planting organizations such as The Arbor Day Foundation and Rain Forest Rescue (among many others) could benefit from the waterboxx by planting more trees at an earlier production stage instead of the usual older trees they plant. This would allow for easier planting and faster reproduction of trees and therefore rapid reforestation.

Mr. Hoff believes his invention could promote reforestation on a large scale thereby addressing hunger, erosion, and climate change due to global warming. The Groasis Waterboxx is an innovative yet practical device that could reduce the cost and improve the profit of planting trees or bushes all while producing significant ecological gains.

http://greeninc.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/09/developing-a-water-battery-for-trees/

http://www.groasis.com

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “It Keeps Growing and Growing and Growing

  1. stevenjs

    This technology is interesting and possibly an example of modern technology mimicking indigenous knowledge that has been around for hundreds, or thousands, of years. I am currently enrolled in a course entitled Environment, Development and Food Production taught by Dr. Bill Doolittle in the Department of Geography and the Environment. He is an expert in arid climate agricultural techniques and processes. In a recent class we examined photos from field projects in Arizona where you can still see piles of rocks in the desert landscape, some with wild cacti or agave plants growing out of them. Other pictures simply showed small piles of rocks halfway buried in the sand. The most interesting, however, showed wild cacti or agave growing out of these piles in an otherwise mostly barren landscape. It was discovered that the Hopi people had been piling up rocks to act as a layer of “mulch”, trapping moisture. Plants or seeds were then grown in the pile, taking advantage of the relatively moist environment within the mound. This practice allowed for agriculture in this rugged and arid environment. The Groassis technology appears to function along the same moisture-retaining principles as the Hopi rock piles. As we learn about so many innovative technologies, it is interesting to see how some of these principles may have already been in use in another context. Hopefully this new technology will use these principles as a positive force in global agricultural practices.

  2. rmw647

    This is definitely an intriguing technology. It seems like one of the biggest benefits is that it increases the growth rate 15-30% in moderate climates (http://www.groasis.com/page/uk/summary.php), which would provide a benefit for reforestation efforts. But I have to admit I’m a little skeptical of this technology’s viability from an implementation standpoint. The inventor states that we’ve cut down 2 billion hectares of trees and should replant them to reap the associated benefits. From looking at the calculations spreadsheet provided in the post, it appears that 500 trees can be planted per hectare, which would be 250-500 boxes, depending on the mix of single plant and twin plant boxes. So in a conservative scenario where this technology is used for 10% of the world’s reforestation and all twin boxes are used, this would still necessitate the use of 50 billion waterboxxes. That means the production, installation and maintenance of 50 billion boxes, which seems a tad ambitious.

    One of the primary drivers for desertification is drought, which is caused my deforestation in other regions. For example, studies indicate that deforestation on the West Coast of Africa contributed to droughts that plagued the interior and led to the sprawl of the Sahara desert (http://www.nationalgeographic.com/eye/deforestation/effect.html). It seems like the places we really need to plant trees are the places from which we cut them down- the places they can probably grow naturally if we just bother to plant them.

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