NIJAR – In the face of global agricultural challenges posed by prolonged droughts optimal and sustaibable water usage is essential. Universities, technology centres, and private companies are continuously exploring new methods for optimisation.
This quest is particularly intense where food is produced. In this case, in Europe’s vegetable garden in Southern Spain. With hundreds of food producing companies the autonomous community Murcia and the province of Almería are renowned for their expertise in water management. These regions are leading hubs for scientific innovation, especially in intensive agriculture and water conservation.
“All influential multinationals are present in this area,” says Juan Cirera, business manager at Moleaer, to El Español. This Californian company, specialising in nanobubble generation systems, has recently opened a factory in Níjar, Almería, shipping ready-to-use machines to Europe, Africa, and Asia.
The origin and evolution of nanobubbles
Originally employed in Japan for healthcare and small machinery production, nanobubble technology has evolved significantly. Today, it’s applied for various purposes. These include soil decontamination, but agriculture remains one of its primary fields. The use of nanobubbles in irrigation leads to water conservation, better nutrient utilisation from the soil, and improved soil structure. “Yields can increase by up to 30% for certain crops,” Cirera notes.
What are nanobubbles?
Nanobubbles are extremely tiny gas bubbles. “They allow gas to be mixed with a liquid in a very stable way,” explains Cirera. In agriculture, atmospheric air or pure oxygen is added to irrigation water. Each nanobubble is about 2,500 times smaller than a grain of salt, and invisible to the naked eye. It carries high internal pressure and a negative charge, promoting even distribution in water.
The impact of nanobubbles
The dissolved oxygen concentration in agricultural water varies based on specific needs. For instance, the approach differs for fruit tree cultivation compared to greenhouse crops. The addition of nanobubbles alters the water’s physicochemical properties, such as lowering surface tension, enhancing soil absorption, and evenly distributing nutrients.
Drought and nutrient concerns
Improved soil conditions allow for more efficient irrigation, reducing water use and increasing the effectiveness of fertilisers. This is vital during droughts when soil loses its water retention capability. In Southeastern Spain, increasingly frequent droughts exacerbate these challenges.
Healthier soil with nanobubbles
Nanobubbles create more pores in soil, filled with water and air, facilitating nutrient absorption and root growth. This structure also helps wash out salts, especially beneficial in fruit farming where soil quality is generally lower than in vegetable cultivation.
Cirera points out, “A plant is smarter than we are regarding water conservation, as it optimises the available nutrients and water.” This directly translates to higher fruit yields.
Endorsement by the scientific community
Over 24 organisations, universities, scientific institutes, and high-level laboratories have endorsed both the technology and the advantages of nanobubbles. Leading agricultural engineering institutes like the University of Almería and the Estación Experimental de Las Palmerillas in El Ejido are among them.
Purifying water and soil
Nanobubbles are also used to purify and maintain water in storage tanks, often stagnant and prone to organic material formation at high temperatures. Furthermore, these microscopic gas bubbles clean internal irrigation systems, replacing expensive chemicals with a natural cleaning process.
This technology is now extending beyond agriculture, being applied to areas like polluted soil remediation in mining and areas affected by hydrocarbon contamination, showcasing benefits that reach far beyond the agricultural sector.