Report on the macro irrigation project in Azerbaijan in Heraldo de Aragon

Ingeobras is developing a macro irrigation project in Azerbaijan. It is a pioneering project to transform 10,000 hectares of rainfed land into irrigated land with a flow of 21,000 cubic metres per hour.

The newspaper, Heraldo de Aragón, has made a report on this project:

Article: Macro irrigation project in Azerbaijan

“Aragonese ingenuity in Azerbaijan’s irrigation system

An Aragonese company has developed the engineering project needed to convert 10,000 hectares into irrigated land in the former Soviet republic.

Azerbaijan, one of the Caspian oil-producing countries, is carrying out a productive diversification to try to cushion the problems caused in its economy by the fall in the price of black gold. To this end, and with the approval of the country’s government, a private company, in which an Austrian firm with 10% of the capital has a stake, has decided to invest in agriculture and is launching a project to transform no less than 10,000 hectares into irrigated land for the time being.

But what do the plans of this former Soviet republic have to do with Aragon? Well, it is Ingeobras, a small company from Zaragoza with 10 employees, that has been selected to carry out this agricultural development, the largest ever undertaken in the country and one of the largest in Europe to be tackled in one go.

This is not the first time that Ingeobras, which specialises in engineering related essentially to the world of water (wastewater treatment plants, drinking water treatment plants, distribution and sanitation networks, etc.) has worked in Azerbaijan. “We had done three artificial lake projects there,” says the general manager, Joaquín Murría. Nor was it the only country to which they had exported their ingenuity. In fact, their first trip abroad was to Haiti, precisely when the country was devastated by an earthquake, where they worked for four years. Their work can also be seen in the United Kingdom, Senegal and Cameroon.

But back to Azerbaijan. To bid for the $90 million (85.3 million euros) irrigation macro-project, Ingeobras went out to private tender and was selected along with an American and a Russian company. “The initial tender was purely technical, there was not even an economic consultation, they were only interested in the technical proposal,” explains Murría.

The Aragonese company won the project, whose firm is involved in the design as well as in all the electrical, structural and hydraulic calculations. “We will then support them during the execution of the works”, which started just a few days ago and are scheduled to be completed in June 2017.

“It is a project of tremendous dimensions: 10,000 hectares of pivot and a flow of 21,000 cubic metres per hour, where wheat and maize will be grown,” explains Murría.

A job, and a lot of experience, that Ingeobras would like to bring to Spain, and more so, to Aragon. “There is a serious irrigation deficit, we irrigate little and poorly, so there is a lot of scope for working on this type of agricultural development,” says Murría.

In his opinion, if there is a surplus of land in Aragon, it is land. And although he recognises that it is unthinkable to talk about irrigation investments in 10,000 hectares, projects of 1,000 hectares are possible. “It has been demonstrated that in these extensions the cost per irrigated hectare is ridiculous”. However, Murría warns, it would help a lot if the bureaucratic procedures were simplified.

A wastewater treatment plant to save costs

Ingeobras is not just about irrigation. This Aragonese company, which was founded in 2005, has also developed a wastewater treatment plant that can reduce costs by up to 60%. It is called Aenergy and is not only more economical, but also “more efficient and more sustainable”, says the general manager of the Aragonese company. To achieve this, this pioneering technology has eliminated blowers, which produce air for treatment but entail high energy costs, and produces 90% less sludge.

“It is smaller, can be installed quickly and with less investment because it has less equipment,” says Joaquín Murría. Although it was not specially designed for the agri-food industry, it is the one that best adapts to this technology. “Moreover, this is a sector with investment capacity, very innovative and which is working very well,” he points out. This explains why, of the five wastewater treatment plants installed by Ingeobras, four are in agri-food companies. And, for the moment, none of them are in Aragon.

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