Agriculture is a major source of livelihood for many rural communities in the Middle East, despite the severe lack of freshwater that affects the region. Brackish groundwater aquifers are often exploited as sources of irrigation water, but the practice is highly unsustainable, as large volumes of water are needed to leach the salts from the soil.
The AGRISOL project aims at advancing more sustainable, high-technology farming practices by developing a solar-powered desalination technology and by experimentally testing its potential to: (1) reduce the current rates of groundwater abstraction, (2) increase current agricultural yields, and (3) enhance farmers' overall well-being by enlarging their currently available portfolio to cash crops with low salinity tolerance. Moreover, the project's advances the diffusion of renewable energy production technologies. If the project is successful, a positive feedback is expected in the medium and long term both on developing measures for climate change adaptation and combating desertification, particularly for desert agriculture in salinization-prone, degrading, and remote areas with no access to electricity.
Our proposed approach involves developing and testing a new generation of solar-powered, low-pressure membrane desalination plants. The plants are fitted with recently developed nanofiltration membranes that operate at low pressure, improving the affordability of desalination in agriculture and compensating for the drawbacks of irrigation with reverse osmosis desalinated water. Two pilot plants will be designed and installed, one in Israel and one in Jordan, and agronomic experiments with different crops will be conducted to determine the technical and economical viabilities of the new technology.
The OASIS project is the ancestor of AGRISOL. It was conceived and designed by Mr. Sam Josefowitz, from Lausanne, Switzerland. Sam had the vision to fight Hunger in the World by creating a system that could provide good desalinated water, using solar energy. A first pilot-plant was installed and operates in Hatseva, Israel, together with the R & D Arava center.