Groasis Boxx: helping grow trees in dry areas
The Groasis Waterboxx is a device designed to help grow trees in dry areas. It was invented and developed by Dutch former flower exporter Pieter Hoff, and won the Popular Science Green Tech Best of What’s New Innovation of the year award for 2010.
Physically, Groasis is a plastic box that holds about a bucket of water initially and has a dough nut shape. The tree saplings are planted about 15 inches from the top of the soil and the box placed over the sapling so that it pokes through. The corrugated top that is placed on the top of the bucket, has special properties which allows it to condense dew from the atmosphere. Thus once the sapling has been planted, there is no need for any further care including watering the sapling. There is more than 95% chance that the tree will survive the first year and find deep source of water underground. After one year the box can be taken out. Over a ten-year cycle ten plants can be potted.
The boxes have been successfully tried out in desserts and barren mountains, including mountain tops that get covered with snow for part of year. Groasis Boxxes can be a wonderful boon for Jodhpur, Barmer, and Shekawati regions of India. They could re-forest Western Ghats also. In India the box has to be imported from Holland and costs about Rs 2,000 freight and duty included. The cost of the hole to be dug and the cost of the sapling are above this cost.
Two trials have been done in India. The first trial was done by Indian Navy at an island near Mumbai that hosts a Coast Guard station, INS Trata.
The second trial was done in 2011 by BAIF Research Institute at Ahmedabad using 50 liters instead of 10,000 liters per date palm for the first year.
By March 15, 2013 BAIF started further trials of a total of 39 Waterboxxes at Champawat (Uttarakhand), Barmer (Rajasthan), Nanodara, Kutch, Chaswad (Gujarat), CRS Urulikanchan (Maharashtra) & Lakkihalli (Karnataka). The plants selected for trials include pomegranate, water melon, musk melon, mango, lemon, ber, chiku, brinjal, okra, tamarind.
A progress report issued by BAIF in March 2015 reveals plant growth to be satisfactory at most places.
|Locations||Number of Groasis Boxxes||Crops Selected||Overall Performance|
|Nanodara||7||Pomegranate, Water melon, Ber, Brinjal, Musk melon||Good|
|Chaswad||10||Mango, Lemon, Brinjal, Okra||Average|
|Lakkihalli||5||Sapota (chiku), Mango||Not inferable|
|Urulikanchan||2||Tamarind, Bottle gourd, Custard apple, Water melon|
Based on their observations during field trials, BAIF found the following crop species to be suitable for planting in Groasis Waterboxx:
- Tree crops – All forest species preferably with single stem grown in arid & semi-arid conditions. Fruit species with straight trunk (least spread type) suitable for arid & semi-arid conditions. Single stem, least spread species will enable easy removal of Waterboxx after the initial six months / one year.
- Vegetable crops like bottle gourd, ridge gourd, okra, brinjal etc.
Essentially anything that grows with a single stem and does not spread too much in the first year before the box has to be removed, is good to plant with the box.
I would like to meet with the BAIF team to discuss the following aspects:
- If six or seven types of trees of the above type were to be planted in the rain shadow area of Western Ghats in 20 boxes what trees would they recommend? I have been thinking in terms of planting 3 trees of six types and two trees of the seventh type making a total of twenty. Its important that we choose well as what we chose is likely to get replicated across many villages of the region.
- I have evolved the following somewhat contradictory thinking in this regard.
- Some trees should be for people i.e. they should give shade and bear human edible fruits for example 'immali'.
- Some trees should be for the birds and bear fruits that birds eat for example fig.
- Some trees should be for the bees and bear flowers that bees can pollinate and make honey.
- I have also asked the question as to what trees give the highest amount of oxygen. One answer is that I have got is that I could ask an alternate question that is readily more answerable and gives the correct result. Trees give out oxygen as a part of the process of converting carbon dioxide into sugar for their own use. Thus the tree with highest sugar is the tree with the highest oxygen giving capability. To a large extent I am comfortable with this answer. Of course carried out to its extreme the tree to plant would then be sugar cane! Rejecting this answer, the trees that come up with are
- Rubber tree as rubber is also a part of sugar chain.
- Coffee trees
- Mahua trees which are near native to W Ghats and would satisfy all three parts of first criteria.
- Groasis boxxes have been used to grow tomatoes and vines. But with box costing about Rs 2000 as capital cost, this is not viable for the ordinary vegetable farmers. If the team has the time I would like to discuss with the team an experiment to grow vegetables using a very limited outlay ( Less than Rs 50 per vine) that works on two out of three principles of Groasis box.
- Would it be worthwhile trying out a transplant of tree that is three year old with a Groasis boxx?
- In regions near here, experiments have been done by planting big branches of the trees. Can Groasis help?