DESERT: Low cost water desalination and sensor technology compact module

Project presentation


Coordinator: Salvatore Camposeo

Executive Coordinator: Alessandro Vivaldi

Projects  Partner and Institution:


Key words: non-conventional water; desalination; smart agriculture; energy efficiency; wastewater treatment; recycling; soil fertility conservation; nutrient use efficiency;continuous nutrient monitoring

The main aim of DESERT project is to create an innovative concept as a smart system combining sustainable technology on water treatment and water quality sensors, tuned to the local situation (climate, water sources, cropping system, grower’s economic potential and regulatory conditions). 

Irrigated agriculture is the primary user of water in Europe and is a very competitive economic sector of the European Union. Almost the 46% of the region’s population lives in places (almost nine European countries), which are water-stressed (EEA, 20091). Moreover, in Europe also the problem of water quality degradation of surface and groundwater bodies has received great interest because of the excessive use of mineral fertilizers in agriculture (OECD, 20132). Nowadays, water scarcity regions require innovative and sustainable research approaches, to enhance the use of non-conventional water sources in agriculture as a component of effective water conservation strategies. Nevertheless, irrigated agriculture in many areas in the world operates with complete disregard to the basic principles of resource conservation and sustainability practices. In this contest, implementing such a strategy is a key factor for sustainable use of limited water resources.
The use of non-conventional water resources means that it is necessary to take into account some critical aspects. In the Mediterranean Region, these sources usually may contain essential nutrients, beneficial for crop growth, but also salts, toxics ions and compounds, which can accumulate in soil and crops over time, compromising soil quality and reducing yields. Effective technologies for reducing salt concentrations in these water sources and for monitoring of nutrient concentrations, to be taken into account into fertilizer plans, represent crucial points to enable the reuse in agriculture.
The present project proposal, with participating partners from Italy, Spain and Belgium, addresses these issues and is in line with the topics of this call, by proposing an innovative water desalination and sensor technology compact module for continuously monitoring water quality and nutrient content. In order to achieve this main aim, the following objectives will be implemented:

  1. To integrate in a low-energy and high-efficiency compact module, two solar powered equipment (HidroNIC- Desal and HidroNIC-Fert) for desalination and fertigation on two representative Mediterranean countries (Spain and Italy);
  2. To develop an innovative system (QUANTUM) adapted to the HidroNIC-Fert equipment, based on hardware with low-cost sensors for real-time water monitoring in order to optimize water and fertilizers application; moreover a software will be developed in order to help growers to manage irrigation and fertilization techniques safeguarding crop productions;
  3. To monitor and evaluate the medium-term evolution of crop nutritional status, soil salinity, yield and fruit quality and safety, optimizing the water and fertilizers needs and the energy costs at farm level;
  4. To evaluate the effect, in medium-term, of the evolution of the soil status by monitoring sensitive indicators of soil fertility and by computing synthetic indices of soil quality (SQIs);
  5. To model the “value of irrigation water” by combining physical, biological and environmental factors to derive water-crop production functions (CWF).
Project structure

WP1 : Integration of the water compact module technology.
WP2 : Development of on-line intelligent fertigation equipment (QUANTUM).
WP3 : DESERT irrigation water validation.

WP4 : Sustainability assessment, energy and cost efficiency of the DESERT system.
WP5 : Dissemination strategy and exploitation plan for transfer of knowledge and market uptake.


Deliverable 1: Technical report about operability of HidroNIC-Desal system. NOVEDADES - M1
Deliverable 2: Technical report about operability of HidroNIC-Fert system and implementation with HidroNIC-Desal system. NOVEDADES - M2
Deliverable 3: Technical report about operability QUANTUM system. UNIBA - M3
Deliverable 4: Technical report about operability QUANTUM software considering also implementation with HidroNIC-Fert system. UNIBA - M4
Deliverable 5: Dataset of the plant mineral element contents, quantified in the samples collected under different treatments compared (end of the first experimental years).
Deliverable 6a: Dataset of (i) the soil chemical, physical and hydrological indicators (end of the first experimental years). CEBAS/CRA SCA - M6a
Deliverable 6b: Agronomical report of the results obtained from soil indices and agronomical response of crops, establishing the sustainability of degraded water use in the medium to long term for Mediterranean conditions. CEBAS/CRA SCA - M6b
Deliverable 7: Report on environmental impacts and economic efficiency of the application of the DESERT system. ULg - M7
Deliverable 8: Report on the bio-economic models defined for the different experimental fields and water treatments.
ULg - M8

References coordinator and  leaders of  each WP:
UNIBA: Salvatore Camposeo PhD
CEBAS-CSIC: Emilio Nicolas PhD
CREA-SCA: Anna Maria Stellacci PhD
ULg: Philippe Lebailly PhD
NOVEDADES: Lucas Galera MsC

Contact Point for  Communication/Dissemination activities:
Gaetano Alessandro Vivaldi PhD - Francisco Pedrero Salcedo PhD

Contact Point for Open Data/Open Access activities:
Gaetano Alessandro Vivaldi PhD - Francisco Pedrero Salcedo PhD

Results of the project: Data and resources

Document Actions

published on 2016/09/05 11:55:00 GMT+2 last modified 2019-08-27T14:54:40+02:00