SOS-AGUA-XXI research project approved to boost Spanish agriculture sector

The research project “SUSTAINABILITY, WATER AND AGRICULTURE IN THE 21st CENTURY”, SOS-AGUA-XXI, has been approved and will be subsidized by the CDTI and supported by the Ministry of Science and Innovation through the 2021 call of the Science and Innovation Missions program. The participants are Sacyr Agua and Valoriza Medioambiente (Sacyr Group), Bosonit, Tepro, Regenera, Aeromedia, föra forest technologies and Aqua Advise. The project aims the development of a series of actions capable of boosting the Spanish agriculture sector through the Mission “Agriculture of the 21st Century”. The project has a budget of € 6 million and will be financed by CDTI with the Next Generation EU funds.

The aim of the project is to research sustainable and energy-efficient technological solutions to develop strategies for the efficient management and treatment of water resources for the agricultural sector. This will allow to guarantee the quality and quantity of water resources, as well as to adapt and prepare the Spanish agricultural sector to combat the progressive scarcity of conventional water resources and the effects of climate change.

The consortium of the SOS-AGUA-XXI project is formed by Sacyr Agua, leader of the project (specialist in water treatment, international benchmark in the use and management of desalinated and reclaimed water for agriculture), Valoriza Medioambiente (also from the Sacyr group, dedicated to the management of garden spaces and plant species, waste and sludge management and treatment, among other activities), Bosonit (specialized in new technologies, use of Big Data, IoT, AI, etc. ), Tepro (dedicated to agricultural consultancy, integrated farm management and agricultural production), Regenera (specialized in energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions), Aeromedia (specialized in the development and use of drones for environmental management), föra forest technologies (specialized in remote data analysis applied to the agroforestry sector) and Aqua Advise (specialized in water treatment consultancy and the development and promotion of new technologies and processes).

The consortium has the support of leading national research groups that will contribute to the development of economically, socially and environmentally viable solutions: the Instituto Universitario del Agua y de las Ciencias Ambientales (University Institute for Water and the Environmental Sciences) of the University of Alicante (IUACA) (focused on analyzing the problem of emerging pollutants in reclaimed water and their treatment), the University of Salamanca (USAL) (participating in the design of predictive hydrological/hydraulic models of flows and extreme weather events and effects of climate change), the Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena (UPCT) (focused on the study of the agronomic aspects of the project, such as the effect of boron on crops and its reduction in irrigation water), the Department of Chemical Engineering of the University of Alicante (UA) (collaborating in the study of the elimination of nutrients by microalgae in brines from desalination plants and agricultural drains for their use as fertilizers), a mixed work group about economics of the Universities of Alicante and Alcalá de Henares (UA-UAH) (responsible for analyzing the aspects of sustainability, economic viability, social and environmental aspects of all the actions of the project), and the Asociación de Investigación y Cooperación Industrial de Andalucía (Association for Industrial Research and Cooperation of Andalucia) (AICIA), a technology center linked to the School of Engineering of the University of Sevilla (participating in the development of technological tools to guarantee the sustainability of irrigation with reclaimed water for herbaceous and woody plant species).

Water needs in agriculture

Estimates by international organizations such as the UN indicate that food production will be doubled in the next 20-30 years. Consequently, in order to meet growing food needs, a modern, water and energy-efficient agriculture is essential. The solution is not simple, since the conventional water resources available for each person or activity are becoming increasingly scarce, mainly due to the progressive increase in population and the needs associated with the development of countries. Moreover, this situation is already being aggravated by the effects of global climate change and the deterioration of water quality due to the presence of new pollutants such as contaminants of emerging concern, microplastics, superbugs, etc. Therefore, it is necessary to adopt measures to ensure the availability of water in enough quantity and quality for the development of the modern and efficient agriculture needed in the immediate future.