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Water Today Title March 17, 2018

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This story is brought to you in part by Waterloo Biofilter Systems

Update 2017/4/8


By Cori Marshall

Pesticide drift, which Montana State University defines as "the movement of spray droplets or pesticide vapours out of the sprayed area", can have damaging impacts on the environment, wildlife, and human health. Community members with high levels of contaminants in their bodies can be found in areas where pesticides have not been used; the effect is also wasteful, the EPA estimates that "70 million pounds of pesticides are lost to drift each year."

Health Canada has opted for the Sustainable Pest Management approach, which takes aim at pesticide use practices, rather than the compounds, and promotes a "judicious use of pesticides." The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) supports the current pesticide oversight system. CFA President Ron Bonnett underlined the organisationís belief that "with proper use, approved pesticides allow farmers to satisfy the growing demand for food, maintain quality standards, protect human health and manage environmental risks."

Irish entrepreneur and businessman Gary Wickham is Chief Executive Officer of MagGrow Magnetic Spray Systems, a company that is using innovative technology to reduce drift, increase profits, achieve better environmental compliance, and help ensure a healthy environment for the future.

Wickham comes to MagGrow, building on a successful career that has spanned more than three decades. His leadership experience has been built with stops at Henkel Loctite, Reheis Pharma, and as the founder of StayCity, a serviced apartment company.

The MagGrow System uses "magnets to create an electromagnetic charge, making it easier for the droplets to attach itself to the crop."

Wickham said that the idea for the MagGrow spray system came from a "chance meeting between his brother and a Florida inventor with a background in agriculture." Wickham added that the inventor noticed a flaw in the current practices that aim to limit drift. The "problem with conventional technology is that 75-80% of what is sprayed gets wasted, it doesnít go near the the crop at all" Wickham said.

"Without crop protection, the plants will basically starve to death" Wickham highlighted, MagGrow technology would solve the issue to a great extent. Without giving away the scientific trade secrets, what Wickham could tell us is that the process of adding the magnetic charge to the water "breaks down natural barriers to allow the droplets to attach themselves to the crops easier."

The conventional practice to control pesticide drift may be causing more harm to the crops themselves. Presently farmers are using larger heavier droplets to help control the pesticide drift. Wickham highlighted the fact that "larger droplets act as a magnifying glass, so in hot climates, you get crop destruction from leaf burn."

Wickham suggests that the innovative technology, used in conjunction, with smaller water droplets would reduce the leaf burn effect. In addition, Wickham said that "with large droplets, the liquid runs off the crop so you are not killing the fungi, bacteria, or pests as efficiently" as possible.

According to Wickham, all growers know that "smaller droplets give you more uniformity of coverage." The greater coverage results in better crop protection, therefore, better yields.

Wickham added that "with more of the product attached to the crop, rather than in fields, rivers, and streams, you would basically need less material to do the same job." If a higher percentage of the pesticide were to make it to its intended target, the crop, the farmer would spend less up front on chemicals and would cut down on the contaminants reaching the environment. "Pesticide solution is mainly made up of water," Wickham said. The idea is if you use less pesticide you use less water.

In the Netherlands, the system water application was reduced one-quarter, while in Ethiopia the system achieved "40% water application rate reduction."

The MagGrow system has allowed farmers and growers to reduce the amount of chemicals used for crop protection, it has even allowed them to reduce the frequency of spraying.

Wickham states that the system was developed over a three-year period, once all of the certificates were obtained the product was launched in December 2016. Despite only reaching market four months ago there are already "twelve customers in the United States and Canada, and [approximately] twenty in Europe and Africa."

The Saskatchewan Network for Alternatives to Pesticides (SNAP) website states that "Pesticide drift causes acute poisonings and chronic illness, with children most at risk." A product that can reduce exposure in humans, cut down on environmental impact and degradation, and possibly allow for future generations to benefit from our natural environment is definitely worth taking a look at.

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