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July 30, 2013 12:04 pm

Start-Up Nation: TaKaDu and Netafim Apply Israeli Ingenuity to Improve Global Water Use

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avatar by Joshua Levitt

A farmer works with the Netafim irrigation system to more efficiently deliver scarce water to agricultural crops. Photo: Netafim.

A farmer works with the Netafim irrigation system to more efficiently deliver scarce water to agricultural crops. Photo: Netafim.

Israeli start-ups TaKaDu and Netafim are bringing the country’s ingenuity and experience in water management to play an important part in helping the world use its limted water resources as efficiently as possible, BBC News reported, in a feature on the global water crisis.

TaKaDu has developed a platform to manage big data analytics with cloud-based software to monitor water networks, increasing efficiency with quicker detection of leaks and burst pipes, and saving municipal users millions of dollars annually.

Based in Yehud, Israel, TaKaDu’s technology evaluates sensors and meters along the water network, which it then mates with domestic and industrial water usage patterns and weather updates to allow more efficient water management on any given network.

“We turn raw data into knowledge,” TaKaDu’s Moshe Tamir told the BBC. “We built a very smart algorithm that can spot anomalies in the network’s behavior, from a small leak to a burst water main, enabling water utilities to plan and react much faster than before. And when you save water you save energy.”

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Tamir said, for example, a Portuguese client saved 1 million euros last year by reducing water lost through leakage, called “non-revenue water” (NRW), from 25.2% to 17.2% compared to a benchmark of 10% NRW at a very efficient network. Networks with leaks, illegal siphoning or poor monitoring could have NRW of 50%.

“Our software can tell utilities where to concentrate their efforts and even identify meters that are less reliable than others,” Tamir said. According to the World Bank, global NRW totals about 50 billion cubic metres of water per year through leaks and burst pipes, alone.

TaKaDu’s work looks towards the near future where water, and water conservation, become even more important than today. The BBC cited the OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050, which forecasts global water demand to increase by 55% between 2000 and 2050, by which time more than 40% of the global population may suffer from decreased water supply and shortages.

To make the situation worse, in less developed countries, water monitoring is often done manually, and with stations spread far across a territory. Tamir sees that one day those meters will be able to transmit data wirelessly, powered by turbines inside the water pipes.

Netafim, another Israeli company, recipient of the 2013 Stockholm Industry Water Award, focuses on providing the most efficient drip irrigation technology to farmers. The BBC said more than 10 million hectares of farmland are irrigated using modern drip irrigation techniques, which can increase crop yields by 15% to 40%.

The Netafim drip irrigation system includes precisely controlled nutrient and water delivery mechanisms, wireless monitoring with atmospheric sensors, and self-cleaning subterranean pipes that can reduce the amount of water lost through evaporation and mitigate contamination from surface water run-off.

In some cases, the Netafim system has reduced agricultural water usage by as much as 80%.

Netafim chief executive Igal Aisenberg said the amount of agricultural land watered by drip irrigation could rise from 5% to 25% over the next decade. While more expensive than traditional systems, some farmers recover their investment as quickly as the first year, Ari Schweitzer, Netafim’s chief technology officer told the BBC.

“Our strategy today is to reduce cost and complexity so that our technology can be available to every farmer around the world,” Schweitzer said.

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