Collaboration and growing trials will lead to functioning and marketable agricultural technology that will enable farmers to deliver high yields with a fraction of the water they currently use, requiring radically less land space and resources.

Press release: September 2018

UK based tech start-up Aqua21 has joined forces with award-winning Airponix to deliver growing trials of new food production technology that uses radically less water, land space and resources.

Airponix has already secured half a million pounds in funding to run trials of its innovative soil-less agriculture systems that can grow high calorie staple produce like potatoes and grains, unlike other aeroponic (or hydroponic) systems which can only grow economically, leafy greens.

In the Airponix system crops are grown in triangular tunnels with roots exposed to a nutrient rich fog of tiny water droplets, enabling the plants to take on precisely the amount of water and feed they need under perfect growing conditions – creating the ‘nirvana of plant happiness’.

The technology has been tested and proven but needs to be optimised to make it ready for wider business use. This means integrating technologies that provide assurance of water, nutrient and air quality, eradicating any water or airborne pathogens and bacteria. Airponix is seeking to ensure the water and the conditions within the tunnels are kept bacteria and pathogen free.

This is where Aqua21 comes in. Aqua21’s miniaturized ozonation technology can disinfect water and test it in real time, seamlessly integrating with the Airponix system. It will entirely manage any pathogen risks, and ensure the system complies with all industry, agricultural, horticultural and food standards legislation.

In addition, the ozonated water will maintain optimal dissolved oxygen to root systems and it will “clean crops” while they are still on the plant, resulting in safe, clean crops until point of picking without any additional cleaning processes.

Already Aqua21 has installed a prototype of the technology at Airponix’s trial site in Norfolk to treat the water in the Airponix systems.

Trevor Costello, Director of Aqua21 and inventor of the technology, said: “We are delighted to be working with a tech start-up that is working towards truly ground-breaking and sustainable technology solutions like we are at Aqua21.

“In both cases our technology offers a more sustainable option for agriculture and food production not just in the UK, but globally. We believe that Airponix technology could be the solution to increasing global food supplies and minimising the risk of famine in countries where drought is a problem or where water sources are under pressure from agriculture activity.”

Director of Airponix Michael Ruggier added: “We’re really pleased to find a technology partner like Aqua21 to integrate with our technology trials this year, adding value to our system and giving us peace of mind. There are various solutions for treating water, in our opinion Aqua21’s is the best for our system and it is ground-breaking technology, which fits with our aim to be industry leading wherever we can. It is the only solution that can clean water and test it in real time to give absolute assurance on quality at every stage.

“In addition, the technology is adaptable, low carbon and sustainable, so, just like our technology, if deployed in a real-world scenario its low complexity, robustness and low maintenance and make it long lasting in the field. This is crucial for making it available to global markets.”

Trials have already delivered exciting potato yields of very high quality, with yields far in excess of what would be expected in conventional farming of the same land space. The trials are producing micro-tubers which are more valuable and extremely useful to the farming industry. They are also currently testing other crops such as tomatoes and maize.

To find out more about the Airponix system and the field trials, visit the website.