Roland Wahlgren, BSc MA, is a Physical Geographer and owner/President of Canadian Dew Technologies Inc. (CDTI, www.candew.ca). He has researched water-from-air technologies since 1984. Peer-reviewed publications in the water-from-air field include Atmospheric Water Vapour Processing, Waterlines, Practical Action Publishing (1993); Atmospheric Water Vapour Processor Designs for Potable Water Production: A Review, Water Research, Elsevier Science Ltd. (2001); and Water-Producing Greenhouses for Small Tropical Islands: Ahead of Their Time or a Timely Solution?, Acta Hort. 797, ISHS 2008, (2008). CDTI, founded in 2003, has performed research and development work for client companies interested in commercializing water-from-air technologies. The R & D work included building prototypes of 20 L per day and 2500 L per day machines. The 2500 L per day machines were commercialized. CDTI commissioned, on behalf of its client, two 2500 L per day machines in Belize City in 2006. As Principal of Atmoswater Research (www.atmoswater.com; founded 1997), Roland Wahlgren was the scientific/technical consultant to the CIDA-supported Grand Turk Water-producing Greenhouse Viability Study from 2001 to 2003. He performed the role of project manager for the CIDA project. He has persisted in fund-raising efforts and maintained the project website for several years. He completed recently a major revision of the website.
Establishing the proposed business requires USD 5.6 million. Candidate crops include tomatoes, sweet peppers, cucumbers, eggplants, beans, herbs, lettuces, and strawberries. Cut flowers such as chrysanthemums and Asiatic lilies may be grown. The greenhouse can fill demand for a population of 3500 for the listed produce. Revenue would be derived from sales of vegetables/fruit (25%) and bottled /piped water (75%). More details are in the Executive Summary.
Test borehole budget
A test-borehole budget ($480,000), includes selected start-up requirements, selected construction administration and selected site improvements. These selected line items are oriented around the test borehole activity. The results from drilling the test borehole comprise a “go / no-go” decision point. The decision to bring the project to scale will be made if the test borehole results show that natural coolant in the form of saline groundwater (15 °C to 17 °C) is available with a high enough flow rate to operate the dehumidification process in the water-producing greenhouse.
Disclaimer: Financial values are illustrative only, and are subject to change with material and labour costs, land costs, and financing arrangements.
Long-term viability of the water-producing greenhouse system results from the project strategy of addressing the basic human needs for food and water. Both food and water are scarce on numerous tropical small islands around the globe. Population and tourism growth have overwhelmed the natural carrying capacity of most populated small islands. Small island businesses and governments are seeking technological means to increase island carrying capacity. Funding will allow drilling a 600 m deep test borehole with the intent of showing that this system is an acceptable commercial risk as a full-scale project on Grand Turk and similar tropical small islands composed of carbonate rock. The project’s business model (shown below) of a successful Grand Turk commercial water-producing greenhouse operation combined with drinking-water bottling can be franchised to entrepreneurs in many other tropical small island locations (see list of viable island locations in CDTI’s Technical Bulletin No. 3).
With successful drilling of a test borehole, proving technical feasibility, we expect financing will become easier to obtain. Financing would allow a full-scale commercial operation to commence as a demonstration project on Grand Turk. Beneficiaries would include the people of TCI who would achieve improved food and drinking water security with accompanying health improvements. Our first commercial operation will demonstrate how a WaterProducer-Greenhouse™ acts like a socio-economic engine, stimulating the regional economy, much as would a new resort, hotel, railway, or cruise ship dock. We expect widespread interest to develop through our marketing activities, thereby making it possible to replicate the project on other islands in TCI and on other tropical small islands worldwide (see list of viable locations in the following excerpt from CDTI’s Technical Bulletin No. 3).
The project was the subject of a CAD 205,000 CIDA Viability Study from 2001 to 2003. CIDA contributed 80% of the study cost. Tangible results from the study included production of nine comprehensive reports (Technical Feasibility, Financial and Commercial Viability, Regulatory Framework Analysis, Environmental Assessment for well-drilling, Environmental Assessment for entire proposed installation and operation, Training Plan, Gender Analysis and Social Integration Plan, and Partnership Agreement) which were all approved by CIDA’s experts. The project’s website, includes summaries of the reports. Efforts to fund the test borehole and first phase construction activities have been unsuccessful. Without having results of the test borehole available, it has been difficult to attract interest in financing the project. The water-producing greenhouse construction on Grand Turk (population 3,700) has not occurred. Therefore, the potential beneficiaries of the project, the people of TCI (population 45,000), remain waiting for progress on the project. Once the project is completed, the entire country of Turks and Caicos Islands will benefit from:
New local employment opportunities
Expanded needs for skills and technologies
A water-from-air production system improves local access to fresh water without the negative effects of existing approaches: depleting scarce surface or groundwater freshwater supplies or producing brine by-products and chemical pollution as does desalination (flash distillation or reverse osmosis). The WaterProducing-Greenhouse™ system, in common with other drinking-water-from-air systems, has relatively low environmental impact. Read about the details in our Technical Bulletins:
After successfully completing a Viability Study for the Grand Turk WaterProducer-Greenhouse™, we have reached a project decision point. The concrete step or major activity required now is to drill a test borehole at the proposed Greenhouse site on the island of Grand Turk to determine well flow rate, temperature profile, drawdown, and recovery. Once known, we intend to proceed with final, site-specific design of the greenhouse system, and ultimately meet our objective, construction of a facility that will be of significant benefit to the people of Grand Turk and neighbouring islands in TCI.
We are working in an area of the world where few deep wells exist. Our drilling contractor stated, “[we are] recommending that a test hole be drilled as soon as possible on this site. We would use modern diamond drilling techniques to economically drill a hole to a depth of 600 meters with core samples recovered through the hole…At this time there is no information available about the ground conditions and what might be encountered at these depths. Therefore it has been very difficult to plan and budget for a large diameter well drilling project.”
Although prepared for a negative result from the test borehole, we consider the risk of failure to be relatively low, based on the following facts:
Hydrogeologists have noted that islands of the Bahamas platform are cavernous, even at depth. The evidence comes from drilling bit drops and loss of circulation of drilling mud, even to depths of 3000 m [Whitaker F.F and Smart, P.L. (1990) Active circulation of saline ground waters in carbonate platforms: Evidence from the Great Bahama Bank. Geology 18, 200-203]. Pump tests in the Bahamas have shown relatively high hydraulic conductivities [Whitaker F.F and Smart, P.L. (2000) Characterising scale-dependence of hydraulic conductivity in carbonates: evidence from the Bahamas. Journal of Geochemical Exploration 69-70, 133-137].
The Turks and Caicos Islands, like other carbonate islands, have a unique characteristic in terms of their groundwater temperature profiles. Carbonate islands are porous and essentially allow the surrounding ocean water to flow through the island underground. Specifically, we know that Grand Turk’s groundwater is saline and is not useful for drinking or agriculture. Groundwater temperature decreases with depth, following the ocean temperature-depth profile. This is unlike groundwater in continental regions where ground temperature increases with depth.
A key feature of our water-producing greenhouse design is that natural coolant, in the form of saline groundwater, pumped from four wells with depths of up to 500 m, where the water temperature is about 15 °C, has a temperature lower than the dew-point temperature of the tropical air. The coolant flows at a rate of 256 L/s through cupronickel tubing (known as water-chilled coils in the air-conditioning industry) causing atmospheric water vapour to condense on the tubing exterior. Because of the large surface area of the coils, about 200,000 L of fresh water per day condenses from the air drawn by fans through the greenhouse system. Using this natural coolant contributes to the sustainability of our design because energy is not consumed in cooling the air to cause dehumidification. The only energy cost associated with using the natural coolant is from electrical water pumps.
A specific issue facing the 3,700 people living on the island of Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos Islands is that access to drinking water is inconsistent and fresh water shortages are common. The relatively small consumer and industrial base on the island and its isolated location creates access and importation challenges, making fresh water and fresh produce expensive. Most goods are imported first via the more heavily populated island of Providenciales. In fact, the population of Grand Turk is dependent on imported fresh produce and bottled drinking water to a degree that makes the population vulnerable to health risks when transportation links are broken during natural or human-caused disasters. Our specific objective is to build, on Grand Turk, a water-producing greenhouse system that obtains fresh water from the ambient moist tropical air to provide irrigation water for a commercial greenhouse operation growing food crops and yields surplus water for drinking water bottling. The design of the system provides a relatively cool growing area so that temperate climate food crops grow at sea level in a tropical climate. Immediate beneficiaries of the project are the people of Grand Turk who will enjoy improved food and water security with attendant health benefits such as better nutrition. Our greenhouse system would benefit local employment. Wider benefits from the greenhouse, encompassing the entire TCI, will be much-needed economic diversification, new jobs in other businesses that interact with the greenhouse operation, and introduction of new skills and technologies.
Last year our project entered the Nestlé Prize in Creating Shared Value along with more than 600 other applicants. The results were announced today—our project was not one of the fortunate winners (see the message we received this morning; copied below). I am inspired by a wonderful insight from Winston Churchill: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Congratulations to the winner and runners-up!
Dear Nestlé Prize in Creating Shared Value applicant,
Today, the 2012 Prize Laureate was officially announced by Nestlé CEO, Paul Bulcke, at our annual Creating Shared Value Forum held in Delhi, India. In addition to the Prize Laureate, two runners-up were rewarded.
After much deliberation, the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Advisory Board selected the following organisations among more than 600 applications:
2012 Prize winner: Fundación Paraguaya de Cooperación y Desarrollo was rewarded for its Self-Sufficient Agricultural School model, which provides practical and business education to young people in rural areas, alongside traditional academic subjects. Business and practical skills are taught through school enterprises that make their own profit and earn enough money to cover facilities and teaching costs, making the schools financially self-sufficient. The Jury was impressed by Fundación Paraguaya’s innovative, financially sustainable approach to education in rural areas.
2012 Runner-up: Excellent Development was rewarded for its programme which supports subsistence farmers and their families to gain access to clean water and grow enough food to eat and sell through innovative, yet simple sand dam technology in semi-arid areas of sub-Saharan Africa.
2012 Runner up: arcenciel was rewarded for its Lebanese Sustainable Agriculture Network initiative, which helps farmers and small food processors to address agricultural challenges and provides them with a fair market channel.
The nomination period for the 2014 Nestlé Prize in Creating Shared Value was also launched at the CSV Forum. The nomination period will be open from 5 November 2012 until 31 March 2013. We encourage you to participate in this new edition of the Prize.
For more information about the 2012 Prize winners and 2014 Prize process, we invite you to visit our website: www.nestle.com/CSV/CSVPrize
We thank you again for applying to the 2012 Nestlé Prize in Creating Shared Value and wish you much success in implementing your projects.
CSV Prize Team
Water + Food™ Blog
Roland Wahlgren is a Physical Geographer. He was scientific and technical consultant to the WaterProducer-Greenhouse™ Project while it was "live" as a CIDA-supported Viability Study during 2001-2003.
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