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A Boxx to Solve World Hunger

  • Sustainable

Water is a finite and irreplaceable resource fundamental to human well-being. It is at the core of sustainable development and is a vital component of the Millennium Development Goals. According to the UN, over 700 million people across 43 countries currently suffer from water shortages and 800 million from food shortages. Agriculture uses over 73% of all freshwater, and, if techniques do not change, population growth and the subsequent increase in food consumption will lead to a 40% increase in water use for food production in the next 35 years.

Source: https://www.groasis.com/en

This is where Pieter Hoff comes in. He designed a product that collects condensation and rainwater that would otherwise be lost to evaporation and releases the stored water slowly into the ground. This is known as the Waterboxx, an ‘intelligent bucket’ that allows crops to be grown in areas suffering from drought, heat, or erosion. Using the Waterboxx increases the crops chance of survival to 90% and uses 90% less water than standard drip irrigation.

The Waterboxx is a polypropylene bucket and lid with a vertical tunnel in the centre. The lid collects water through its superhydrophobic surface, funnelling water down siphons into a central reservoir. A wick at the bottom allows stored water to enter the ground slowly via capillary action. The box also acts as an incubator, sheltering saplings from intense heat and regulating cold overnight chills, as well as stimulating root growth and capillary formation in the soil. After a year, the root system is established enough to find its own water source at 3 metres depth, and the box can be removed and used a further nine times over nine years – each year one tree – to grow more plants.

Pieter’s company, Groasis, also has a second product, the Growboxx: a biodegradable alternative to the Waterboxx. It works in a similar way as the Waterboxx, surrounding the sapling to aid growth through providing a more stable temperature and water supply, but is made of cardboard from recycled egg boxes. Unlike the Waterboxx, it does not need to be removed after a year as it decomposes in situ, but can thus only be used once.

These products allow rural families to plant productive trees in combination with vegetables, providing food and revenues and allowing for crops to grow in places otherwise unsuitable. They are cheap, easy to use, need no electricity or irrigation, and are easily adaptable to traditional agricultural societies. The only problem left was to solve the financing of these to rural families with no capital.

Groasis is now in the process of designing a new platform that allows corporations to finance these trees and boxes through carbon credits to offset their emissions. The programme was initially run in Colombia in 2018, spread to Algeria in 2019, and Chad in 2020, with plans to continue its expansion across the world. 

Pieter started out with an idea to improve crop irrigation, but it has developed into an innovative project that allows for crops to be grown in places previously unimaginable, and now provides a potential solution for world hunger, whilst simultaneously tackling water shortages, deforestation, and erosion.

Author: Ellie Clarbour

Sources: 

An interview with the founder of Groasis, Pieter Hoff, on the 2nd Feb 2021

https://www.groasis.com/images/image/Factsheet/20171209-National-Icon-Groasis-Ecological-Water-Saving-Technology-Factsheet.pdf

https://www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/water_and_sustainable_development.shtml

https://panorama.solutions/en/solution/90-water-saving-agriculture-growboxxr-plant-cocoon

https://www.groasis.com/en/press-messages/moonshot-solution-identified-to-end-hunger

https://www.groasis.com/en/summary/mission-and-vision-of-groasis-about-reforestation-erosion-deforestation-desertification

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