Developing Intelligent Selective Electrodialysis for 21st century Agriculture

Developing Intelligent Selective Electrodialysis for 21st century Agriculture
John H. Lienhard V, Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Water and Food, and Director, Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab

Period of performance: 

September 2017 to August 2018


Salinity is a problem in irrigation waters, affecting plant production and soil health for hydroponic and in-ground producers.  To reduce salinity in irrigation waters, sophisticated farmers, such as hydroponic crop growers, currently use reverse osmosis (RO). However, RO removes all ions including divalent ions such as Ca2+ and Mg2+ that are beneficial for crops, leading to the need for fertilizer additions and expenses. Improper combination of RO and fertilization can lead to sub-optimal crop yields for many growers.

The Lienhard lab is developing a technology that could improve agricultural practices and crop yield, especially for hydroponic growers.  The system is called Intelligent Selective Electrodialysis (ISED) and can be used to reduce water salinity.  This process also tailors the ion content of irrigation waters to meet crop nutrient requirements and increase yields.  An improvement on existing reverse osmosis desalination processes, ISED selectively removes the ions that are harmful for crops and retains those that are beneficial, resulting in improved yield with less water and fertilizer use.  The team plans on using this grant to conduct end-user interviews in the US and Mexico and test their lab prototype.