This year’s James Dyson award, presented by the creator of the innovative roller-ball hoover design, has gone to Australian Edward Linacre, for designing Airdrop. A highly acclaimed invention for its application to farming processes, Airdrop draws moisture from the air by sucking air underground and into a network of pipes. The water then condenses on the inside of the pipes, as it’s temperature is reduced due to it being cooler under the earth. The condensed water then drains into a storage tank, where it is pumped back to the surface and used to water the plants. The water is dispersed around the field using a process called sub-surface drip irrigation, which is said to be the most efficient watering technique as it vastly reduces evaporation by dispersing the water at ground level.
Linacre explains that he was inspired to undertake the project of creating Airdrop after talking to orange farmers, who complained about the difficulties of getting water to their crops. At the time Australia was in the middle of its worst drought for a century. The poor crop results were putting a lot of pressure on farmers, who struggled to meet growing debt obligations in the face of falling profits. Linacre was shocked to find that these pressures were causing some young farmers to go as far as committing suicide. The revelation pushed him to create Airdrop as a way of helping the farms to provide water to their crops.
Inspired by self-irrigating desert rhubarb, Linacre had the idea of drawing water from the air. He has explained that desert air has an humidity of 54%, meaning every cubic meter contains 11.5 millimeters of usable water. Another source of inspiration for Linacre was the Namib beetle, which inhabits one of the driest places on earth, the Namib Desert. The region receives less than 2.5 centimeters of water per year. Linacre explained that nature is the best place to look for solutions to our problems as it has been dealing with the same ones for millions of years.
Currently Airdrop is still in the development stage and needs to be applied on a large scale before it can make any real impact of Australian farming. Lincare has, thus far, been working on much of the project in his mum’s garden. He is looking for Australian industrial partners to help him deploy the Airdrop on a nationwide scale sometime in the near future. As yet he has not expressed any interest in exporting the product abroad, his main focus trained on helping Australian farmers. Who needs a water cooler when you make fresh water from air.