Feature: HydroBoost

By: Vivienne Haldane


For Rakaia farmer Michael Richards his focus is on water and transforming its chemical structure. The result is HydroBoost.

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When Rakaia sheep and beef farmer, Michael Richards suffered chemical poisoning in the 1980s due to dipping his cattle, he went looking for alternative options to reduce the number of chemicals used on his property, while at the same time aiming to increase production.

The result of his research and determination saw him develop a device that energises water, which has been trialled on South Island farms with a range of positive results.

Michael started liquid fertiliser spraying and registered as a liquid fertiliser spray operator with Rural Contractors New Zealand in 2004. Tied in with his goal to improve farm productivity, he was keen to help his clients achieve the best results for their businesses with different technologies.

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Michael Richards

One of those technologies was energised water. In his research carried out over 11 years, he developed a water energising unit and began testing the device.

Michael explains, "21 paddocks were sprayed at different fertiliser rates and energy rates, so we had 21 replications of each test, which were measured with an electronic probe."

The initial result for Michael’s first client, a dairy farm with spray truck application in North Canterbury, showed a 21% increase in pasture growth. Heartened by the response, Michael then embarked on trials at several different farms in the South Island.

While the original technology was developed offshore, over the last 11 years, Michael has been modifying and fine-tuning the HydroBoost technology for Australasian conditions with a number of farms that have used the product, generating solid financial benefits.

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HydroBoost units are easily mounted on existing irrigation pipes

What is HydroBoost?

The HydroBoost unit is installed on existing irrigation pipework. It delivers a low-frequency charge to water as it passes through, transforming its chemical structure to mimic rainwater. There’s no requirement for added chemicals or expensive maintenance. The energised water increases nutrient uptake, water viscosity, and enhances root system development in plants.

Michael explains, "As a result of the work we’ve carried out (including scientific trials), we’ve found a significant increase in paddock yield, improved stock health, improved efficiency of applied water, reduction in leaching, and increased drought resilience in plants."

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Farmer Jamie McCoy using a plate meter to measure the growth of grass pasture in a field on her farm in rural west Wales, UK

Pasture trials

It was essential to put the HydroBoost unit through its paces to see what it could achieve. To this end, Michael embarked on many field trials both his own and independent ones. He also enlisted the help of Dr Peter Espie from AgScience Ltd.

"Peter has been working with us for the last few years. We’ve had the units out on farms working successfully for pastures. In one trial (ongoing) we carried out at Twizel, we sprayed a piece of ground with 300 litres of energised water per hectare by spray truck on a dry patch between pivots. This has had only one application. Results showed that after two years, the production was lifted by about seven percent increase growth

Other results

"The farmers I worked with provided positive feedback on changes in their pasture or crops and gave me the confidence I was on the right track. Although some of this may seem a bit left-field, we’ve had customers who have sworn that this is a great product and again, it’s not the magic pill, but it can help on-farm productivity.

"It has been proven to help improve pasture growth, clean up irrigation ponds, and improve stock health. When you start to do several small things well, they can add up to a bigger increase in your net margin," says Michael.

In another trial, energised water increased dry matter from 397kg/ha to 474kg/ha compared to untreated natural water.

Independent field trials have shown increases in pasture growth when using HydroBoost technology. One trial measured a 50% increase in grass cut, but in the real world, there are variations in soils; all our scientific trials have the soil electro conductivities mapped so when adjusted for this, energised water produced 19% more pasture than non-energised (see graph)."

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Energised water benefits animals, too, says Michael. It increases their natural immune system. In addition, overall stock health improves, with treated water aiding their ability to gain more weight with less food.

Outside the square

Michael works in conjunction with a business partner (who is also in the agri-business sector and has a farming background). They met at a field conference a few years ago and discovered they had similar goals and outlooks plus complementary skills.

When we speak of how energised water can add to farm productivity, Michael says, "It’s not something that’s been dreamed up.

"We have undertaken exhaustive testing and fine-tuning, and we want to get it right for the market. My business partner and I have both got farming backgrounds, and we know what the farmers are going through. It can be tough.

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The HydroBoost device, seen here in a pod on a floating pontoon, helps clean up irrigation ponds

"Our goal is to give farmers the flexibility to choose a proven tool that can help their business and the environment. In addition, there are a number of reforms being pushed onto farmers around water use. It’s increasingly difficult to ensure all the boxes are being ticked. That’s why we firmly believe this technology is a solution that can help reduce risk, improve profitability, and reduce harmful effects on the environment.

"While the technology could be considered ’outside the square’ by some, and people might be sceptical about what it can do, we’ve invested in scientific studies to back the claims up.

That’s the challenge Michael says they’ve faced.

"People say, ‘gosh this sounds weird.’ But the time we’ve taken to get it right and get it to the marketplace and have studies undertaken by agricultural science has given it credibility. Now we can say ‘hey, this is a product that can help you, especially with the water reforms and increased focus on concern for the environment. HydroBoost is one of the solutions in the suite of tools that can help you make some changes.’"

He believes that if they can help farmers out with their productivity in a natural way, then potentially, the flow-on effects through the food chain could mean less harmful effects on the environment and its people.

Farmer feedback

So far, Michael has worked with early adopters of this technology, and their feedback has been critical to his developing the idea further.

"Farmer feedback is, in many ways, much more critical than a scientific study. They can be very harsh. If it doesn’t work for them, they let you know pretty quickly," says Michael

"We are not advocating cutting out fertiliser at all. We are simply enhancing what’s there, and as micro bugs develop in the soil, farmers will probably find they need less fertiliser."

HydroBoost will be introduced to the market at the South Island Agricultural Field Days (24–26 March).

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Energised water boosts stock health and pasture quality

RCNZ membership

Michael has been a registered, fully qualified RCNZ contractor for around 15 years, starting as a fertiliser spray applicator. He’s still a liquid fertiliser applicator, but he doesn’t spray chemicals since his experience with chemical poisoning.

Michael finds being an RCNZ member has multiple benefits for his business.

"I look at the information RCNZ send through all the time. It’s helpful, and you know there’s someone you can phone if you get a problem.

"When the Mycoplasma bovis infection came on the scene, I was able to phone and ask more questions. RCNZ informed me about what steps to take to protect myself and my clients.

"I’ve always been concerned with the amount of movement of people coming and going on dairy farms. When foot rot disease was prevalent in my days of sheep farming, you never let anyone come on to your property with grubby vehicles. Health and Safety has always been a major concern for me. When I had the cattle dipping accident, my neighbours were surprised; they thought I too safety-conscious to be caught out."

HydroBoost benefits

  • Stimulates the electrochemical activity of molecules
  • Improved grass growth
  • Dissolves the minerals typically contained in water, allowing them to be absorbed more quickly into the ground

In plants, it

  • Increases natural immune system
  • Enhances the root activity and stimulates photosynthesis, increasing the absorption of CO2 and other nutrients from the air
  • Bacteria and soil fungi (through regular use of HydroBoost) allows growth to be maintained longer into dry periods while reducing the amount of irrigation required
  • Rainwater is the carrier of electrical energy that stimulates plant growth when discharged at ground level. Plant growth from rainwater is at a greater rate than irrigated water.

To check out the case studies, visit hydroboost.co.nz

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