An innovative device that mimics the water retention of the bromeliad plant has won three students from Thailand the 2016 Stockholm Junior Water Prize. The device has been installed on rubber trees on plantations to increase soil moisture and productivity.

The students – Sureeporn Triphetprapa, Thidarat Phianchat and Kanjana Komkla – built the device by examining how efficiently plants naturally collect water. Their research showed that the device increased soil moisture by 17.65 percent, compared to without the device, and was 57.50 percent more productive.

“I’m really happy, but I think every team is the best!” said Kanjana Komkla on receiving the 2016 Stockholm Junior Water Prize. “And thank you everyone.”

The prize jury’s citation for its decision read: “The theme of the 2016 World Water Week is Water for Sustainable Growth. The winning project addresses future water security and rural livelihoods using an elegant leap-frog technology which looks simple, but its beauty masks its complexity! The project embodies the theme well through its journey from the idea to application.”

“It has already proven to be scalable and is now being tested in the field, by hundreds of farmers, who are now benefiting from the inspiration from beautiful plants which have an exceptional capacity to collect and store water.”

Asked how she would want to take the winning project further, Sureeporn Triphetprapa said: “I will use our idea to relieve poverty in our community.”

“This shows that to make real progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, we need to start at the local level,” said Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director of SIWI. “This is a very good example of that; a simple, smart and scalable solution, making a big difference.”

The Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition brings together the world’s brightest young scientists to encourage their continued interest in water and the environment. This year, thousands of participants in countries all over the globe joined national competitions for the chance to represent their nation at the international final held during the World Water Week in Stockholm. Teams from 29 countries competed in the 2016 finals.