Dutch National Radio (RNW) visits a demonstration of the Groasis Waterboxx in Spain

30.03.2011 By: Transfer Latin Business Consultancy

Last 12th of March, RNW traveled to Spain to visit a demonstration of the Groasis Waterboxx, given by the inventor Pieter Hoff himself. The article, writen by Johan Huizinga and published on the 21st of March is posted below.

Retired horticulturist Piet Hoff is a man on a mission. He wants to help solve the global food problem and is convinced that his invention will do the trick. His Waterboxx, a kind of incubator for very young trees in arid regions, is already in use around the world.

"Many more people have already asked me why this thing was never discovered earlier." On the steep flanks of the Pyrenees, Piet Hoff shows off his discovery, a combination of ingenuity and simplicity.

The Waterboxx is really not much more than big bucket with a hole in the base big enough for two saplings to grow through. When the sapling is planted, the bucket is filled with 16 litres of water. A thick cotton thread through the bottom of the bucket allows the water to seep slowly into the ground around the sapling's roots.

The night-time dew which collects on the bucket's ribbed lid at night, flows toward the centre and into the bucket via two tubes. Once inside, the hermetically sealed reservoir makes it impossible for the water to evaporate.

Koen Roest, irrigation expert at the Agricultural University of Wageningen examined the Waterboxx:

"It really is very well designed in a number of ways. The system is geared toward trapping the maximum amount of dew at night. And one of the smartest factors is that the water is released to the tree very slowly. This is much more effective than the traditional method of irrigation where a tanker occasionally dumps a load of water and nearly drowns the saplings."

No refill
Inventor, Piet Hoff, says the Waterboxx does not need to be replenished. During its first year, the night dew and the occasional rain shower are sufficient to allow the sapling to form a root system. After that, the sapling's roots will have reached a depth where they have access to ground water. 

Koen Roest says the price of 10 euro per Waterboxx is too high for poor farmers in Africa. However according to Piet Hoff "You can use it again every year for 10 years. So that's 1 euro a year or 1 euro a tree." According to Hoff it's eight times cheaper than irrigation pumps. "And those farmers really don't have the money to sink 10,000 euros' worth of wells."

Nut trees
The inventor, Piet Hoff, believes his Waterboxx is destined for a glorious future:

"I hope eventually to achieve the reafforestation of all the land that was eroded in the past 2,000 years. There are quite a few species of nut-producing trees which are suited to arid climates and give yields of four tons per hectare. So if we want to do something about the food problem, we could reafforest the lands that used to be green and produce sufficient quantities of food."

Subsidy for trailblazer
Still the usual scepticism remains. And that goes for the Spaniards as well, emphasises Sven Kallen, who's trying to set up a market for the Dutch invention in Spain.

"In no time at all, we had a great deal of interest. But the Spaniard is, by nature, very suspicious where innovation is concerned, and wants first to see that it works. To break through that and to speed things up we asked for support from the European subsidy programme Life. When that project was passed in July, it quickly opened doors to all kinds of other parties to whom we can introduce the project."

Last week, with the support of city councils and municipalities, a start was made with the placing of 30,000 Waterboxxes in five different regions of Spain. With this, Kallen hopes to erase the last remaining doubts. "Look", says Piet Hoff as he takes a 10 month old test tree out of the hard earth. "See the excellent tap roots that grow diagonally through the rocks!" Two hours later he's on a plane flying to the next project - in Kenya.


© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Published on : 21 March 2011 - 5:19pm | By Johan Huizinga (Radio Netherlands Worldwide)