Hope in the fight against global droughts


Climate change is making water increasingly scarce. Tulln-based Agrobiogel, a spin-off of BOKU vienna and the Austrian centre of industrial biotechnology (acib), has developed a natural/biological, wood-based hydrogel that can absorb many times its weight in water, store it and release it continuously to soils over long periods of time. This will allow agriculture to use water more efficiently in the future and provide water to drought areas.

The continuous rise in global temperatures is resulting in a worsening water crisis. Especially in agriculture, which consumes about 70 percent of water supplies, water is used inefficiently in many places. Droughts are on the rise due to climate change, and crop failures and heavy rainfall are causing environmental degradation. These ongoing trends threaten not least the supply of food for the world’s population in the long term.

Agrobiogel, acib and BOKU want to prevent global water crisis

The Tulln-based start-up Agrobiogel developed a hydrogel from renewable raw materials in cooperation with the Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (acib) and BOKU. Hydrogels – also called superabsorbents – are polymeric materials capable of absorbing and storing many times their own weight in water and slowly and continuously releasing it back into the environment.

Agrobiogel’s technology is a biological, superabsorbent, wood-based biogel that is a byproduct of biorefineries. Spread as granules on the soil, it turns into gel when it comes into contact with water. It remains there for many years. After twenty years, the wood-based granules decompose into humus and continue to improve soil fertility and plant content in the soil. The gel can even be used on sandy or loose soils, such as in desert areas or urban centers for crops and trees, to counteract droughts. In addition, the technology could significantly reduce water use by 40 percent in the future as well as the use of fertilizers and pesticides, which subsequently saves energy and labor for irrigation and fertilization. Plants have been shown to survive up to 52 days without watering.

Impact and benefits

Currently, the Tulln-based start-up near Vienna is already producing larger quantities for the Austrian market with its own machines. Via corporate partners such as the Salzburg garden market company Florissa, the hydrogel in 800g packs for professional and hobby gardeners is on the shelves throughout Austria for the time being. “Demand is already exceeding production capacity, which is why we want to expand our production and product range. Interested customers come from segments of agriculture as well as forestry. Vertical farming for the greening of highway roads or house facades is also being considered. In principle, there is no limit to the range of applications. Last but not least, the technology would have the potential to gradually bring about a turnaround in agriculture and offer a breakthrough in the global fight against droughts.


Agrobiogel GmbH
Prof. Dr. Gibson Nyanhongo
CEO & Technical Officer
Picture: Agrobiogel