Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

H2020

Pewas AQS — Result In Brief

Project ID: 807831
Country: Slovakia
Domain: Industrial Technologies, Food and Natural Resources, Climate Change and Environment

No rain, just shine? Aquaholder® Seed+ produces crops in dry conditions just fine

Growing water shortages and seed drought sensitivity are major factors in increasing rates of crop loss. EU-funded scientists have revolutionised a seed treating process that will provide relief to farmers in water-deprived regions.
No rain, just shine? Aquaholder® Seed+ produces crops in dry conditions just fine
Unpredictable climate conditions need solutions that are both versatile and easy to apply. The Pewas AQS project took this challenge head on, and is close to being able to claim it has successfully overcome it.

“Until now, all attempts of applying superabsorbents onto seeds failed due to a multi-step process that could be carried out in the lab but not in the industrial setting,” explains Ján Horváth, project coordinator and CEO of Pewas, the Slovak SME behind the initiative. The project team thus worked to integrate well-established and certified superabsorbents directly into an existing standard seed treating process.

Project efforts resulted in delivery of Aquaholder® Seed+, thanks to which the process now revolves around just one step. Based on the concept of hydrostimulation, this novel approach is geared toward industrial-scale implementation using well-established and certified superabsorbents.

Putting farmers in control

“We strive to empower farmers with an efficient, simple and quick-to-use solution that will help them mitigate one of the biggest obstacles to sustainable agriculture: drought,” says Horváth. Laboratory tests and preliminary field trials suggest achieving this is not too far off into the future.

Although the validation process is still ongoing, the Pewas AQS solution has already returned at least three outstanding results. Its application has shown improved seed emergence parameters by 20-50 %. This is evident from a higher number of plants, a more developed root system, increased vigour and vitality, and homogeneous plant density.

Project work has also achieved 10-15 % higher hectare yields and 30-40 % reduced water needs for initiating germination. This last positive outcome “enables crop growing in less favourable conditions, providing a head start for germination and earlier photosynthesis (a significant source of energy for plants),” Horváth states.

Currently in the second year of field trials, at least two more agricultural seasons are needed to get as much relevant statistical data as possible. “We are testing our solution in 12 countries and on 10 different crop types so far,” the project coordinator offers.

Planting the seeds for future growth

Given the project’s heavy engagement in applied research and close work with future commercial customers, more in-depth details from preliminary tests are not yet available to the public. Pewas is also cooperating with international partners from different state research institutions, private research entities and final users. “We realise the complexity of our endeavours and our inability to proceed on our own,” Horváth acknowledges. “Research-related information will be published after the product validation phase is over within 2 years.”

For now, Pewas AQS is getting word out through general presentations of the Aquaholder® Seed+ solution at conferences and participation in internal events held by major international companies they are already liaising with. A video providing a brief overview of the proprietary hydrostimulation treatment process is available.

Horváth also makes note of various platforms that offer dissemination opportunities for SMEs awarded European Commission grants or Seal of Excellence. These include brokerage events, the Enterprise Europe Network, coaching sessions and innovation summits, all providing added exposure to potential customers and research partners.

Pewas AQS itself has been awarded the Seal of Excellence for the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument Phase 2, 2018.

Local successes, global impact

The potential for Aquaholder® Seed+ is global. While the solution performs best in extremely dry regions, it has shown potential for regions that were not always water deprived. On the latter note, Horváth explains that “it works as an ‘insurance’ against insufficient amount of moisture in the soil.”

Pewas is slated to become the first and only to overcome major barriers in moving from lab to industrial scale through its proprietary, single-step process of applying superabsorbents onto seeds. Looking ahead, Pewas AQS partners envision further fruition of their labour with work focused on a successful commercialisation phase, additional product development and customers who will benefit from their solution.

Keywords

Pewas AQS, seed, crop, Aquaholder® Seed+, superabsorbent, drought, agriculture, hydrostimulation
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