The principal research hypothesis of the AGRISOL project is that partial desalination of brackish water by NF membranes is a technically feasible and economically viable solution for agriculture in semi-arid areas of MENA. In particular, we expect that the use of NF membranes will significantly improve the cost-competitiveness of state-of-the-art solar desalination plants using PVRO technology without detriment to the possible applications of the technology in the field of agriculture. If the project is successful, we expect that in the short-term, the developed technology will enter the target markets in Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Israel, thereby reducing the huge water volumes currently being abstracted for the cultivated crops and increasing overall crop productivity. In the medium- and long-terms, irrigation using desalinated water will allow cultivation practices to focus on more highly valued horticultural crops, contributing to the more sustainable development of rural areas in the MENA region.
The research hypotheses are derived from well-established empirical evidence that was introduced in the previous sections and that is further elaborated upon in the following points:
- NF desalination is substantially less energy-intensive than RO desalination.
- The higher salinity of NF permeate compared to RO permeate results in negligible differences in crop yields
- Compared to RO permeate, NF permeate has a higher concentration of the essential elements necessary for plant growth
- Irrigation with desalinated water is more efficient than with brackish water
- Many areas in MENA are freshwater poor but have extensive brackish water resources