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BW Businessworld

'We Can Save Up To 82% Of Water'

The company has been developing and producing efficient solutions for preventive soil management, thus contributing to the protection of resources

Photo Credit : Ritesh Sharma

India has witnessed a serious shortage of drinking water and increasingly decreasing soil quality in the past couple of years. Scanty rainfall and an insufficient irrigation infrastructure have worsened the drought conditions. Recently, the IPL matches had to be shifted out of drought-stricken Maharashtra as the state authorities decided they couldn’t afford to spare water for the upkeep of the cricket grounds. Germany-based OsmoDrain claims to provide solutions to all these problems. The company has been developing and producing efficient solutions for preventive soil management, thus contributing to the protection of resources. Managing director Andreas Zeiser-Radtke spoke to BW Businessworld’s Suman K. Jha about his India plans. Edited excerpts of the interview:

What’s the philosophy of OsmoDrain?
Our philosophy is to create solutions for customers mainly in three areas — sporting grounds, landscaping, and agriculture. Through our systems, we are bringing water directly to the soil. Also we are ensuring that water doesn’t evaporate and doesn't get affected by the wind, etc.

With this process, we are saving a lot of water. We are supporting stadiums, lawns and pitches, which host soccer matches, tennis and cricket. Traditionally, they use a lot of water to upkeep lawns. We are reducing it by as much as 80 per cent. We have brought a new tool to the green-keepers. Even the farmers can save a lot of water. Our system provides solutions all over the world — in hot climate areas.

In Singapore, water is enough but humidity in lawns creates problems. Our product blows fresh air into the lawns and dries it up quickly.

Can you explain how this technology works and how much time it takes?

We use a web of pipes, which are put directly into the soil. They can be fitted into a soccer field, a tennis lawn, or a cricket ground without destroying it. We dig deep around 15 centimeter into the soil and bring the water directly from the source to the grass and its roots. The soil divides the water through the capillary action.

We can also blow in fresh air and blow out poisonous gas like carbon dioxide and methane, and keep the grass roots healthy. It almost takes five days to finish the work.

To operationalise, do you dig into the ground?
We dig the ground, or plant the web of pipes suitably. This technology provides solutions to the plants with a life span of more than two years. This technology is not suitable for potatoes, sweet corn and wheat. But it can be used for apples, pears, pineapples, date palms, oil palms, etc. Even for sugarcane in Brazil, it provides solutions with a life span of seven years, this technology is particularly beneficial.

For example, there is heavy rainfall and you need to use the playground. You can then use this technology to actively drain out water, which is done by blowing the hot air to dry it. In summers, the same function is used to water the playground, using water optimally.

When did you start the venture and who came up with the idea?
We started our venture in 1993, but it was professionalised in 2001 in Germany. It’s a funny thing — the idea is more than 4,000 years old. And I think the idea, or some of its variant, could have been invented in India as well. It’s not a secret that the soil absorbs water through capillary action. And if we bring water directly into the soil, then the capillary action ensures that the soil and the plant take just the right quantity of the water required. We thought of professionalising this old idea.

In Germany you started with soccer grounds?
In Germany, we started with soccer grounds and apple and pear orchards, landscapes, and municipality greening, in roundabouts, etc.

From Germany we ventured out fast to other countries like Italy, France, the UAE, Bahrain. We are present there for the past eight years. We are actively aiding Qatar for the world soccer championships, which will be held in 2022. For the past one and a half years, we are also active in California, USA, (short in water), where we’ve partnered with the national coach of the US soccer team. We are improving the quality of the natural lawn at Silverlake, which offers the most modern training ground at the moment. We are present in almost 25 countries

So, you are present in countries which are water deficient?

Not necessarily. For instance, Germany is not a water deficient country. Our technology is not just to save water, which is what we do in water-deficient countries. But in countries like Germany, improving and protecting the quality of the lawns is equally important. Like, in Bucharest, Romania, they don’t have to change the lawns in every four-five months. Since they are using our technology, they can use the same lawns for two to three years. This saves a lot of money.

India is a water-deficient country. Whether it’s cricket matches, or farmer suicides, water shortage plays a crucial role. Can your expertise and technology better the situation?
Yes, we have proven results. How much water do you need to keep a plant alive? In Qatar, we did a 24-month-long test. It was proved that with our technology, water can be saved up to 82 per cent, against all other available means like sprinklers, drippers, and sprayers.

We are new in India, but not new for the world. We have more than 17 years of experience. If you can save even 50 per cent of water, then you can double the irrigation area. That can save crops and the lives of farmers too.

Not just agriculture, this technology can make a difference to tournaments like IPL as well?

Exactly, our expertise lies in that. If we are involved with sporting tournaments, we not only save water to the tune of 70 per cent, but we make the game playable in better conditions. With the technology that we have, what happened in Maharashtra would never happen again.

Some Indian states like Gujarat have already experimented with Israeli irrigation technology drippers. How different is this technology from the drip irrigation technology?
We place our pipes, call them water channels, directly into the soil. The water that we supply never sees the sun. So, there’s no evaporation. There’s no wind-drift like sprinklers and sprayers that get affected. We only need that amount of water that is really needed by the plant roots.

How big is your company?
We are a German, family-owned company. We are free of banks and we don’t need a third party to finance us. We have operations across the world (in 25 countries). We have specialists working for us. We have consciously kept our global team slim, but we have experts working with us, who work with farmers, landscapers, and sporting facilities.

What’s the future of this technology?
In the next five years, we intend to cover at least eight cricket grounds in India. Of course, we will also increase our presence in California, USA.

Sprayers, drippers, sprinklers — old ways to do irrigation — our biggest competition. Except for OsmoDrain, no other company is offering this technology.

[email protected]; @skjsumankjha