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Trees in intensive care - ACO research project develops smart irrigation solutions
Rendsburg, 22.11.2022 - Trees in the city have to cope with difficult living conditions and suffer from damage due to climate change. At the same time, they are urgently needed to provide shade and store water.

With a research project on its own premises in Büdelsdorf, ACO is testing innovative solutions to help trees grow into efficient natural climate systems with the help of smart irrigation technology, even under the harshest conditions. "Our goal is fully automatic, optimally coordinated irrigation so that urban trees can grow a large shady crown and their roots can develop optimally even in the most difficult soil and traffic conditions," says Axel Leybold, Head of ACO Smart Solutions.

Automatic irrigation with smart sensor technology

The basis for the test installation is formed by ACO Stormbrixx, a proven modular infiltration system that can store rainwater underground and allow it to seep away in a controlled manner. On the approximately 500 square metre ACO test site at Eiderhafen, 260 ACO Stormbrixx elements of around 100 cubic metres were installed underground. "For our development project, we equipped the infiltration trenches with 64 sensors that continuously provide us with data on soil moisture, water level, temperature, air pressure, humidity and other influencing factors," says Axel Leybold.

Six Norway maple trees are now planted in a substrate in the infiltration trenches. It contains pre-treated activated carbon, which stores moisture and serves as fertiliser. The substrate and the charcoal come from the region. In addition, transparent tubes were installed to allow observation of the root growth. Other ACO system components such as the Stormclean rainwater treatment system, the Rain4me rainwater storage tank, manholes and manhole covers as well as tree protection grates and grids from ACO are used on the test site. Together with moisture sensors, solar-powered pumping technology and various approaches to irrigation technology in the root zone, the result is a smart ACO tree protection system that offers optimal growing and living conditions. The entire water management below ground can be controlled via dashboard or mobile phone. The aim is to use this data to draw conclusions about tree health, the influence on evapotranspiration and the CO2 storage of a tree. The microclimate plays an important role in this. In addition, economic key figures are to be worked out that are linked to the thriving of a tree.

Making urban trees grow big and healthy

"We see enormous interest in such solutions in cities and municipalities in many countries," says Axel Leybold. "A newly planted tree needs about 5 years to root deep enough to be self-sustaining. With conventional irrigation, the costs for this amount to up to 15,000 euros for a tree. We want to deliver simpler and cheaper solutions."

Trees in the city have a hard time: living conditions are extreme on paved-over roadsides and in hard, compacted soil. Water and air exchange are impeded and there is little space for the root system. In addition, they suffer from dry phases and hot spells - even in northern German cities. Take Rendsburg, for example: the treetops of city trees contain more and more deadwood, which poses a danger to pedestrians, cyclists and motorists and has to be removed at great expense. Cities in Schleswig-Holstein invest millions in their tree populations to ensure the quality of life in urban areas. The city of Kiel, for example, has employed a tree officer who works full-time to save or replace the trees in the city that are under attack. In Heide, Husum, Kiel and Lübeck, tests are also being carried out to find out which previously untypical tree species from other climatic regions might be suitable for the future greening of the city.

ACO. we care for water

ACO is a water-tech company that cares for water. Intelligent drainage systems from ACO increasingly use smart technology to drain, store and reuse rainwater. In all its products, ACO emphasises durability, reusability and a low carbon footprint. The ACO Group is a global family business that is one of the world market leaders in the water-tech segment. Founded in Schleswig-Holstein in 1946, it operates as a transnational network in over 50 countries. Worldwide, ACO is characterised by a high level of decentralised ownership and explicit regional market proximity.

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