The greatest challenge agriculture is facing today [is] to feed a planet with a growing population, in a context in which agriculture is affected by climate change and the demand for more sustainable production
From our families to our pets to the wildlife that surrounds our homes, all life on Earth is made possible by water. That’s an obvious fact. But here’s a less obvious one: Did you know that 70% of freshwater is used by the Agriculture sector? In practice, this means there’s a high chance that any given drop of water has been on a farm somewhere in the world, at some point in time.
Farmers in southern Spain, China and the United States might not have much in common in terms of their operations, but they’re united by their reliance on water. The relationship between farmers and water, however, is a complex one. Water scarcity is a top concern for many growers, in a future shaped by climate change. But even for those who do have enough, water quality can be an issue. Improper disposal of water that has come into contact with crop protection products can pose problems for the entire ecosystem, damaging an already delicate balance of life beyond the farm. To sustainably feed more people every year, the Agriculture sector needs innovative solutions that make water quality a priority, protect environments from runoff and point-source pollution, and integrate seamlessly into growers’ operations.
One such innovation comes from a joint effort by Bayer and Beutech Agro. Designed to be replicated around the world (and already installed on thousands of farms, as well as on ForwardFarms in over 20 countries as part of Bayer’s sustainable farming initiative), Phytobac® is an innovative automatic system that captures water with crop protection product residue and uses microbial degradation to safely eliminate contaminants.
In addition to the well-established agricultural practice of spraying crop protection remnants on treated fields, the use of the Phytobac® system allows the elimination of final chemical leftovers by taking full advantage of the principles of microbial degradation.
Picture a setup resembling an oversized compost bin: a roofed structure filled with a mixture of straw and farm soil provides a hospitable environment for microbials to break down chemicals from crop protection products.
When cleaning, washing or filling spray equipment in a dedicated area, any water used in the process is collected into the Phytobac® system through a floor drain. From there, it’s moved into a holding tank until it can be slowly irrigated over the bed of straw and soil, automatically balanced to create the ideal moisture and pH levels to encourage the microbes to do their work. A pitched roof helps add heat to the environment, speeding the process and facilitating evaporation.
And it’s true that many of the sweeping, global challenges we share overwhelmingly fall on the Agriculture sector. But when concerns of possible water contamination loom large in the minds of farmers worldwide, Phytobac® is able to offer some peace-of-mind: the knowledge that it’s possible—and simple—to responsibly contain and dispose of contaminated water.
And when that’s multiplied by the dozens of touchpoints where farms interact with water every day, it becomes more than peace-of-mind for farmers. It becomes a sign of a safer, healthier, more sustainable future—for all life that relies on water.