Business Irish

Sunday 21 September 2014

Wave goodbye to global warming, GM and pesticides

Radio wave-treated water could change agriculture as we know it. Its Irish pioneers meet Tom Prendeville

Published 25/08/2013 | 05:00

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MIRACLE GROW: Treated water results in larger, healthier crops, says Professor Austin Darragh of Limerick University

A GROUNDBREAKING new Irish technology which could be the greatest breakthrough in agriculture since the plough is set to change the face of modern farming forever.

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The technology – radio wave energised water – massively increases the output of vegetables and fruits by up to 30 per cent.

Not only are the plants much bigger but they are largely disease-resistant, meaning huge savings in expensive fertilisers and harmful pesticides.

Extensively tested in Ireland and several other countries, the inexpensive water treatment technology is now being rolled out across the world. The technology makes GM obsolete and also addresses the whole global warming fear that there is too much carbon dioxide in the air, by simply converting excess CO2 into edible plant mass.

Developed by Professor Austin Darragh and Dr JJ Leahy of Limerick University's Department of Chemistry and Environmental Science, the hardy eco-friendly technology uses nothing but the natural elements of sunlight, water, carbon dioxide in the air and the minerals in the soil.

The compact biscuit-tin-sized technology, which is called Vi-Aqua – meaning 'life water' – converts 24 volts of electricity into a radio signal, which charges up the water via an antennae. Once the device is attached to a hose, thousands of gallons of water can be charged up in less than 10 minutes at a cost of pennies.

Speaking about the new technology, Professor Austin Darragh says:

"Vi-Aqua makes water wetter and introduces atmospheric nitrogen into the water in the form of nitrates – so it is free fertiliser. It also produces the miracle of rejuvenating the soil by invigorating soil-based micro-organisms.

"We can also make water savings of at least 30 per cent. When the water is treated it becomes a better solvent, which means it can carry more nutrients to the leaves and stem and percolate better down into the soil to nourish the roots, which in turn produces a better root system. Hence the reason you need less water and why you end up with larger and hardier crops," explains Professor Austin Darragh.

Extensively tested in Warrenstown Agricultural College, the technology is being hailed as a modern day miracle.

Harold Lawler is Ireland's foremost Agricultural Specialist. As Director of the National Botanical Gardens and former Master of Agricultural Science at Warrenstown Agricultural College, he has carried out more research on Vi-Aqua growth-enhancing technology than perhaps anyone else in the world:

"In the bedding plants we really saw a difference in the results; they were much hardier and tougher. You could drop a tray of these plants on the ground and they would not shatter, like ordinary plants.

"We also noticed that the treated plants needed far less fertiliser than the untreated ones. The roots took the nutrients in better whereas with other normal plants leaching of minerals occurs," explains Harold Lawler.

Impressed, Harold Lawler's research team carried out further extensive tests on a wide variety of vegetable plants:

"The iceberg lettuces were far superior with faster germination, and with carrots for example, the crops were on average 46 per cent heavier," explains Harold Lawler.

During recent successful tomato crop field trials in Italy, three of the country's largest Agricultural Co-op's were so impressed with the results that they have now decided to recommend the technology to the country's farming community.

Elsewhere, the Indian government have now concluded their own tests, which confirm that they are able to boost tea (plant) production by over a third while using far less water.

In recognition of the groundbreaking technology, the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, London, recently took the hitherto unheard-of step of granting Professor Austin Darragh and his team the right to use their official centuries-old coat of arms on the new technology – the first time ever that Kew Gardens has afforded anyone such an honour.

The Kew Gardens botanists were not just impressed with the research; they used the technology to restore to life a very rare orchid which had been lying dormant and practically dead in a greenhouse bell jar since 1942. Amazingly, the orchid is now flourishing once again.

Intriguingly, chickens and sheep fed the energised water turned into giants. . . but that's another story!

Limerick University off- campus company ZPM Europe Ltd, who are based in the National Technology Park, Limerick, is now manufacturing the Vi-Aqua technology.

Sunday Independent

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