Overcoming the environmental challenge
Agriculture fertiliser can contain elements such as phosphorus and nitrogen, which is ultimately converted to nitrates.
When used in large quantities on land, it can end up in groundwater sources.
“Nitrate can have negative effects on human health,” said Sheila Ball, subsurface and groundwater specialist at Deltares.
"For example, it can cause blue baby syndrome, which can be fatal for infants. But it can also cause eutrophication, which can be toxic to the environment as well. It can cause the death of fish and other animal species."
Loïc Charpentier, policy officer from Water Europe, presented the award to Joachim Rozemeijer, in charge of subsurface and groundwater quality in Deltares.
"You can't see if the water contains nitrate or not,” said Rozemeijer in the video. “We are trying to give farmers more insight about the water quality on their own fields by offering a simple way to take measurements.”
Isolating nitrate hot spots
In the video, Laurens Gerner from Waterschap (water board) Rijn en IJssel said the organisation is cooperating with the agricultural sector to ensure more of the nutrients leached to the environment end up in crops. “That’s the goal,” he said.
Deltares said that the app makes it possible to “isolate nitrate sources and hot spots”, and to test the impact of the measures.
Once the app is installed on a smartphone, it just requires a reference map and nitrate test strips to get started.
Advantages include speed (60 seconds) per measurement, as well as the low cost (~EUR 0.50).
However, one of the listed disadvantages includes limited accuracy of test strips (~30% especially at low concentrations, compared to ~10% for laboratory analyses).