New research project on sustainable irrigation in Morocco

The kick-off meeting of the new EU project “SmaCuMed” took place online at and under the leadership of the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences

Link to news article (German)

The online kick-off meeting for the new EU project “Smart irrigation cube for sustainable agriculture in the Mediterranean region – SmaCuMed” took place in July 2020 at the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences (Hochschule Karlsruhe – Technik und Wirtschaft) under the leadership of the working group of Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jan Hoinkis, Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology. Funding is provided within the framework of the so-called PRIMA Initiative (Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area)

The innovation of SmaCuMed is to develop a new concept for a sustainable all-in-one irrigation system and to pilot it locally in Morocco. “Morocco is a typically Mediterranean country suffering from severe water poverty. But water is urgently needed for the rapidly developing agricultural production,” explains Prof. Hoinkis. “Because of climate change, Morocco, like other Mediterranean countries, cannot rely on rainfall or groundwater sources to meet its water needs for agriculture. Many groundwater sources, especially in coastal regions, are salinated (brackish water) and cannot be used for agricultural irrigation,” Hoinkis continues. Morocco has a large potential of brackish water with an estimated salinity of between 1 and 16 g/l.

The SmaCuMed concept is based on a mobile cube-shaped unit equipped with highly efficient PV panels, allowing autonomous operation. It will use a modular desalination system for brackish water based on Capacitive Deionisation (CDI), a new desalination process that has not yet established itself on the water treatment market. In this process, salt water flows between two porous electrodes made of activated carbon, to which a voltage is applied. The positive ions are attracted by the negatively charged electrode, the negative ions by the positively charged electrode. This removes salts from the water flow. In addition, low-pressure reverse osmosis (ND-UO) is used for higher salt concentrations. With the pilot project in Morocco both technologies will be systematically investigated and compared. It will be evaluated at which salt concentrations the CDI, the ND-UO or a combination of both can be used. The energy supply for the entire process is to be provided by regenerative PV energy to enable autonomous operation of the plants without grid connection.

Environmental and social changes have serious impacts on food and water resources in the Mediterranean region. Climate change, non-renewable agricultural practices, overexploitation of natural resources and new lifestyles are putting a strain on sustainable and healthy development in many Mediterranean regions. The PRIMA initiative was launched by the EU to address these challenges through research and innovation solutions. The aim of the initiative is to build research and innovation capacity, promote knowledge and develop joint innovative solutions for sustainable agriculture and food systems and integrated water supply and management in the Mediterranean region. The aim is to improve their climate resilience, effectiveness, cost-efficiency and environmental and social sustainability and to contribute to upstream solutions to problems of water scarcity, food security, health, quality of life and migration.

(Photo: Marion Broda)
Kick-of-meeting of the research project SmaCuMed on sustainable irrigation in Morocco, held online at the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences 2nd from left: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jan Hoinkis