Innovation Helps Trees Grow in the Desert

by Kathie Thomas

Innovation Helps Trees Grow in the DesertA few weeks ago, Popular Science (PopSci) announced its “Best of What’s New 2010” list of the top 100 innovations of the year. Named No. 1 was the Groasis waterboxx, a “dead-simple game-changer.”

Indeed, the waterboxx, developed by AquaPro Holland, allows trees to grow anywhere. According to PopSci, “drylands actually have enough water to sustain trees for decades, but it’s several feet beneath the surface. Because rain and irrigation evaporate quickly, many young plants die before their roots can tap that reservoir.” But the waterboxx prevents that.

And, according to, it prevents “against evaporation, frosts, pests and the elements and also helps to maintain a steady temperature at the tree’s roots.”

The waterboxx is designed to sit around a newly planted sapling. It has to be filled with four gallons of water just once.

“The waterboxx does the rest,” PopSci said. “At night, its top cools faster than the air, collecting condensation to supplement those initial gallons. The tub drips about three tablespoons of water a day into the soil, sustaining the plant while encouraging its roots to grow deeper in search of more water. Once the plant reaches the moist soil layer, usually after a year, the farmer lifts the box off the plant and reuses it on the next sapling. Each waterboxx is expected to last 10 years, and, for about a buck or two per tree grown, is cheap enough to use in poor nations.”

According to, the waterboxx was tested for three years in Sahara desert. Eighty-eight percent of the trees planted with the waterboxx showed an average growth of more than 90 percent in length in the first year, while 89 percent of the trees planted without the waterboxx died.

As PopSci said, this device has the “potential to better the lives of millions affected by deforestation and overfarming.”

But the Groasis waterboxx is not just for social uses, commercial enterprises like wine growers are experimenting with it as well. Check out this video:

There were a lot of great innovations in 2010. Do you think the Groasis waterboxx deserves the top spot?

To see even more of the technical details of how the device is used and installed, watch this video.

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Kathie ThomasKathie Thomas is the Director of Innovation and a senior partner at Fleishman-Hillard. The global Innovation practice group Kathie leads offers proven tools and approaches for helping organizations and teams inject a new level of innovation and productivity into their strategic planning and program development.