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Aqua-4D Chile: Felipe Villarino on Radio Zero’s #WorkCafeSantander

Felipe Villarino from Aqua-4D® Chile recently took part in a stimulating discussion with Radio Zero’s WorkCafe program.  The full interview is available to listen to here (in Spanish), and also in text format below. 

The interview explores a range of topics, including how the Aqua-4D® system can contribute to greater water efficiency in Chile at the same time as solving or alleviating several common agricultural problems such as cloggingsoil salinity, and nematode infestations. 

Catalina Allendes: This interview is about something very innovative, different, and DISRUPTIVE. Here is Felipe Villarino, General Manager of Aqua-4D® Chile. So this Aqua-4D® is an innovation that allows water savings of up to 30%, or possibly even more.

Felipe Villarino: Exactly.

Catalina: So this is all framed in the purposes of a greater awareness of the use of water. Could you tell us more, Felipe?

Felipe: Aqua-4D® is a Swiss technology which brings about greater water efficiency. What this technology does is subtly rearrange water molecules, physically restructuring water, which lowers surface tension. Then when the water makes contact with the soil there are a series of benefits. One of these is greater moisture retention and hydration in the soil, so in the agricultural world this means less irrigation is required, and that translates into significant savings in the use of water.

Catalina: Could you go into more detail about what the company is doing in Chile?

Felipe: We go into the field, get together with the producers and understand a little what are the challenges that each of them faces, and we establish a project accordingly. Today we are focused on the IV region, where we identify the biggest gaps in water scarcity in the country, and we are working with farmers who have serious problems of lack of water. Nowadays they have to go deeper into the groundwater, and either they do not find water or if they find water of very poor quality and with very high electrical conductivity indices. And that’s where Aqua-4D® comes in to help through this innovation.

Aqua-4D® agronomists in the field in Chile

Catalina: What does the system look like?

Felipe: Basically, it is a Treatment Unit accompanied by a control module that generates ultra-low frequency electromagnetic signals, which treat the water.

Catalina: It’s like a pump?

Felipe: … Think of it like a tube, imagine a tube through which the water passes. And where the effect is generated through these waves that come from the system that is attached to this tube (Treatment Unit). They are modular, therefore we can treat unlimited flows.

Catalina: And is there nothing similar on the market?

Felipe: Look, there are technologies with electromagnetism, but they do not have the same efficiency that Aqua-4D® has in terms of distance, in terms of treatment, and also that with Aqua-4D®, water efficiency is just the biggest of many effects – There are also a range of benefits, such as solving clogging in the irrigation system, making the entire irrigation system more efficient, generating energy savings. Also, for example in the IV region where there are serious problems of saline soils, we manage to leach the salts away. This also allows greater development and greater production for the farmer.\

Catalina: That’s great! Are you only in the IV region of Chile for now?

Felipe: We are focused on the IV region due to water scarcity issues, but we also have projects near Las Cabras, Rapel Lake, and near the Santiago area. The challenges all over Chile, but we wanted to focus on the IV region where the greatest number of water problems are.

Catalina: And are you only in Chile or also other regions?

Felipe: The company is in more than 40 countries, and in Latin America it arrived initially in Brazil more than 4 years ago, and in Chile, Peru, and Argentina about two years ago.

Catalina: Could you tell us some more about the national and international issues this technology can help alleviate?

Felipe: Today Aqua-4D® meets 11 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals worldwide. What we wanted to do in Chile – especially as it is a new technology, an innovation, it costs to integrate and change mentalities and paradigms – was to link up with academia, with universities. As of today we already have an agreement at national level with the INACAP, where their experimental agricultural centers and students will begin to work with Aqua-4D®.

Catalina: What about the prices, how expensive is this technology or how accessible can it be?

Felipe: An Aqua-4D® project is valued according to the flow rates that are treated. As I said are modular, therefore it depends on the flow used by each of the projects. But it is not an expensive technology; it is an asset that does not require maintenance and…

Catalina: I mean, it is installed it once and that’s it !?

Felipe: That’s right. There is a follow-up, because we install and then we do an accompaniment since technology does not do magic. With the technology we are going to treat the water, the water that you are going to use is different, and then there is a management, we have to measure. That is, the soil will be more moist, less watering will be required. And if the person who does the watering does not make that change, they will end up using the same amount of water as before.

Example of an Aqua-4D® system installed in Chile

Catalina: What is the return on investment?

Felipe: Today we have cases of 1 year and 2 years with the technology, and some places in other countries have had Aqua-4D® for 10 years without maintenance and that is a great advantage that we show to the client.

Catalina: So, what are your projections for the future?

Felipe: Look, the great challenge this year is to be able to develop several projects that allow us to monitor and show local results, that will generate more and more credibility which will allow us in 2020 to have a greater growth in the agricultural world and also in different regions.

Catalina: And what are Chile’s goals in terms of saving water?

Felipe: Well, today there is a whole process of water efficiency, there are several initiatives, today I would say that there is no clear goal to say what we have to save, but that is where we want to generate value …

Catalina: Yes, it’s good to put a number on the subject!

Felipe: Exactly … today we also have the support of the Swiss Embassy here in Chile, where we will organize a breakfast with the directors of different institutions to raise awareness. We also know that we have an important role in communicating what we are doing, because if not, it does not make sense, so I also thank this space of being able to make known what we are doing.

Catalina: Sounds great! What about the COP25 meeting in Santiago in December, are you going to have some participation there?

Felipe: Yes, we hope to participate in some form.

Catalina: Great! So, with innovation and solutions for water, this Swiss technology that comes to Chile, and that will allow and is allowing water savings of up to 30% in the use of water in the agricultural sector – Felipe Villarino, thanks for joining us!

Felipe: Thank you very much.