Málaga company fights drought with the ‘DeepDrop’ device

by Lorraine Williamson
the 'DeepDrop' device

VéLEZ-MáLAGA – It is very dry in the fruit orchard of southern Spain, the region of La Axarquía. So dry, that horticulturists are calling it the “worst drought in history”. Several mango and avocado plantations have already died due to the lack of water. Could the ‘DeepDrop’ device be the answer?

Consequently, the irrigators in the province have sounded the alarm. With no rain and with the Viñuela reservoir at only 15% of its capacity, the group advises that entire mango and avocado plantations are starting to dry up. 

Alejandro Clavero, president of one of the irrigation communities, explains to SER that they do not remember a similar situation. According to Clavero, the extension of the drought decree approved in June 2021 by the Junta de Andalucía is “insufficient”. The decree establishes new resources and emergency works to strengthen these operating systems. 

La Viñuela in worst situation 

The reservoirs of the province of Malaga currently have 51% of their storage capacity. But La Viñuela, the one with the largest capacity in the whole province and very important for the Axarquía region, is in the worst situation. Therefore, the Junta has forced the government of Andalucia to activate the drought decree in this region of Malaga. 

The Junta has already activated a water-saving plan to achieve a 20% reduction in urban supply. For residents, the water is limited to 200 litres per day. The supply of regulated water for irrigation has been reduced to 1,500 cubic metres per hectare per year. This is compared to 2,000 m3 for farmers. 

In doing so, 2m3 of water is siphoned from the Guadalhorce-Limonero exploitation system and water from the Chillar wells has been incorporated into the Viñuela-Axarquía system for human supply. 

The Andalucian government is “determined to complete most works as soon as possible” or even to activate works planned years ago. 

The ‘DeepDrop’ device

However, a Torrox company may have the answer. DiarioSur writes that it has developed an underground irrigation system that saves up to 70% water. Already installed on 70 farms in Spain and several other countries, the ‘DeepDrop’ device also improves the production of trees by reducing their water stress. 

The developer is 82-year-old Antonio Rico from Torrox. In the past three decades, he has already patented 25 inventions. All inventions related to the construction sector, but also agriculture and fighting forest fires. 

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Up to 70% of water saved

Since 2017, Rico and his company have already successfully developed an underground drip irrigation system that saves up to 70% of water in agricultural plantations. With the water situation so critical in his area, the company run by his son receives new orders for the DeepDrop product every day. 

According to son Ernesto, the results achieved so far are “very satisfactory”. With their system, they have succeeded in reducing the water footprint in avocado plantations from 800 to 1,200 litres of water per kilo of fruit to between 250 and 350 litres. 

With the system, the water goes “in a fully automated way” directly to the root of the plant. The advantages of the invention are not limited only to the reduction of water consumption. Moreover, by avoiding situations of water stress in the plants, greater production has been detected in the plantations. 

150,000 devices 

The company is growing rapidly and installing the system at farms in the following countries;

  • Spain
  • Chile
  • Paraguay
  • Mexico
  • Israel
  • Qatar
  • United Arab Emirates

Furthermore, the founders are also negotiating to introduce the irrigation system on the French market as well. 

Rico indicates that he has also been working for three years with the Institute for Subtropical and Mediterranean Horticulture La Mayora in nearby Algarrobo, belonging to the Higher Council for Scientific Research CSIC. 

Major progress in saving irrigation water 

“We firmly believe that ‘DeepDrop’ represents a major advance in saving irrigation water, in a context characterized by drought and the scarcity of water resources that we are increasingly faced with. We have a clear example in Axarquia, where the La Viñuela reservoir is in a critical situation with really alarming levels,” emphasises Rico, pointing out that the system could be used on other crops as well. 

Also read: Drought in Spain this summer

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