Austrian daily DerStandard responds to the question where are the solutions?
Highlighting BrioAgro its cutting-edge technology innovations to help agriculture in the face of water scarcity, a consequence of climate change.
On May 1st, the prestigious Austrian newspaper “Der Standard” published an article about: STAUBTROCKENE ÄCKER (THE DRY FIELDS), entitled:
Drought in Spain puts farmers in state crisis: what does that mean for vegetable prices?
In the article, he focuses in depth on the reality of a “Clear and warm” country known as such by the millions of tourists who visit it every year, a country whose future is threatened by an “endless drought is a nightmare for agriculture and the livestock”.
We include part of the article where it refers to BrioAgro and its collaborators:
Where are the solutions?
The solutions are found in state-of-the-art technology, digitization and sensor technology. It is not that Almería did not think and plan ahead. Even if the consequences of climate change will likely dwarf the forecasts. Without the widespread use of drip irrigation for decades, almost nothing would grow in Spain anyway. And it is clearly used in the extensive plantation of olive trees or in viticulture.
“Saving water is at the heart of our company,” José Luis Bustos, head of BrioAgro, told STANDARD. Since the beginnings of his startup, he can now count on more than 500 installations, almost 100 of them well-known clients. And without leaving its focus on the “sea of plastic” near Almería between El Ejido, Roquetas del Mar and Campo de Níjar, in the Cabo de Gata natural park or on the coasts of the autonomous community of Murcia, where find the “vegetable greenhouses of Europe”. Also in Portugal, Italy and other Spanish regions where rainwater is scarce, such as Catalonia, Aragon, in Navarra or near Valladolid (Castilla y León).
Satellite and Solar
His clients include growers of leafy crops and lettuce for an American fast food chain. It doesn’t matter if it’s citrus fruits or subtropical fruits and vegetables that require a lot of water, like avocado, which is also produced in the south of Spain: “Most farmers trust their eyes when it comes to irrigation,” Bustos continues. : “But our system is fully automated, with satellite image analysis and solar-powered sensors for hydrological measurement, we are much more accurate.” Bustos is currently working on multiple projects related to saving water, such as an EU project (Gen4Olives) with Spain and Italy to carefully analyze olive trees that grow without irrigation during an extreme year.
Bustos insists that in addition to technological solutions, there is a global concept that ranges from the renaturation of the river landscape, the planting of trees in height to store water, to the reservoir of river water at the mouth of the sea, through the reuse of used water and, of course, the expansion of seawater desalination. Every drop counts here, because after the local groundwater level has dropped dramatically for decades, there isn’t enough rain to replenish it. Desalination of seawater is providing the water needed for cultivation near the coast.
“Desalinated water is more expensive, but even so, it’s better than having no water”, says Bustos. In addition, technological advances have significantly reduced the cost of desalination. He sees another future opportunityin the biodegradable gels that store water and nutrients in the root area and release them when needed. And since the organic seals do not give any indication on the use of water, Bustos is in favor of the product’s water consumption being traceable to consumers.
Roberto Chaves Álvarez of Deeper Agro 4.0 and Fuensol 2006, based in Valladolid, Castilla y León, works with 14 irrigation contractors in the Duero river basin, an important wine-growing region in central Spain. “Nowadays water consumption is being significantly reduced,” he says in the STANDARD interview. “We only irrigate with groundwater, currently the limit is around 4,800-6,000 cubic meters per hectare. It is becoming more and more restrictive when it comes to irrigating our surface.”
The groundwater reserves would be at their limit and would hardly be filled with rain and snowfall. Less potatoes or beets are grown and also, due to higher prices, more wheat and sunflowers. In the case of wine, Ribera de Duero and Rueda, the expected rise in prices for customers in Austria is more linked to the higher prices of the bottle and cork and transport than to the lack of water, underlines Chaves Álvarez: “But hot dry years can also be good for excellent wine vintages, like last year.”
When asked by STANDARD, the WKO said “it is increasingly difficult to grow fruit and vegetables in Spain due to climate change”. However, there have also been record harvests in recent years because growers are flexible, using new technologies and are therefore becoming more effective. However, last year was yet another year. weak with less performance, which pushed prices up about ten percent. This was also reflected in exports to Austria, where volumes fell or stagnated. However, harvest results often differ from crop to crop. For example, this year’s strawberry harvest has not been good (October too hot, January and February too cold), while apricots will be abundant.
According to experts, the current heat wave itself does not cause a significant change in yields and prices, because heat waves in Spain are normal to a certain extent. “However, if there are as many hot days as the previous year (when the annual temperature was 1.7 percent higher than the 1981-2010 reference period) and precipitation will be below average (previous year 84 percent of the reference period 1981-2010) 2010), we will see a challenging year again”, according to the WKO.
Is there a future under plastic?
The Italian agronomist Francesca Berti from Bologna is working on her doctoral thesis at the University of Almería and working at BrioAgro. However, her issue is not water management, but organic substrates and fertilizers, which she develops from the residues of agricultural production in the region and also from algae. “Greenhouse agriculture is a complex and holistic system,” she says. “All the elements play together: of course, water, nutrients, substrate such as soil and heat.” With digital and sensor technology, the growing process to the final product can be made extremely efficient and continuously optimized”, gives hope: and stressors such as lack of water or extreme heat can be recognized early and be counteracted
Source: Jan Marot, May 1, 2023 – derstandard.at