The “Yali Reserve” is a wetland in Chile catalogued as a national reserve, where Cristian Estrada worked as an environmental volunteer. During his years as a volunteer, the young man was able to corroborate, with his own eyes, that water levels were diminishing with a dramatic speed. Estrada decided to investigate the reasons for the water's disappearance and he soon found that the culprit turned out to be field irrigation. To this day, Chile faces the worst droughts in history, with an agricultural segment that takes 70% of the country's fresh water reserves.
Estrada graduated as a biotechnologist and used his know-how to try to solve the water shortage problem in the wetland without upsetting the surrounding farming activities. That's why he created his start-up, Eficagua, whose aim is to improve soil conditions and reinforce crop roots. Cristian's idea and enterprise made him a winner of the Latin American Innovators Under 35 from the MIT Technology Review LATAM edition.
Cristian explains that Eficagua “improves the end-result of the crops in quantity and quality with less water used through technological upgrades for consumables and soil moisture retention, also increasing the harvesting potential, providing extra nutrients for the plant." He uses hydrogels and algae that improve water absorption, micronutrients, and increase the soil's intake of nutrients and organic matter. His method also delivers mycorrhizae, a symbiosis between fungi and roots that enhances root strengthening and growth.
Eficagua is already working with farmers and reforestation businesses. The water savings obtained from his method is designed for the conservation and regeneration of hydrological ecosystems. Estrada shared that he is in constant search of new ways of effectively combining the best of three worlds: industry, society, and science, through a more efficient development and a more sustainable use of natural resources.
Alain Picasso, a member of the jury for the 2019 Latin American Innovators Under 35 and director of the Agency for Energy Development of the EDF Renewable Energies, France, confirms that Estrada "is able to obtain super absorbent materials with algae particles and micronutrients and applauds his effort towards improving the crop's performance," a problem Alain considers solving "is key to having a brighter future.”