Sep 03

Vi-Aqua – Turning Water into Snake Oil


On August 25th 2013 The Irish Independent, the biggest newspaper of Ireland,  published an article on its website containing claims which sound too good to be true: Wave goodbye to global warming, GM and pesticides - Radio wave-treated water could change agriculture as we know it. Apparently the reporter completely fell for the pseudo-scientific nonsense of Vi~Aqua, a company which sells little machines which ‘energize’ the water you want to use for plants or livestock. If you really believe what they are saying, that the energized water takes in nitrogen from the atmosphere, you could use up to 30 percent less of it and that it is ‘wetter’ than normal water, it wouldn’t be unfair to call it the “greatest breakthrough in agriculture since the plough.“ But why should someone believe this magic to be real?

On their website Vi~Aqua features a YouTube video of a television programme, which ‘explains’ how their products work (looks a bit old, probably from 15 years ago):

If you might wonder, professor Austin Darragh was a real professor at Limerick University and the other scientist who features in the story, dr. J. Leahy, still works there at the department for Chemistry and Environmental Science. But the science Vi~Aqua is presenting on how its technology works is, eh … vague. On the documentation page we can read in a document (Inducing the fourth state of plasma in water, pdf):

It is now becoming apparent that the phenomenon of latent magnetic energy in water is a magneto-hydro-dynamic product similar to plasma which fills all of the space of the universe and forms nebulae and stars. Electromagnetic activation of water, by introducing an electromagnetic low frequency field into it with a suitable technology, produces at the gas liquid interface of nano bubbles in water, a plasma.

This is just pseudo-scientific bullocks, akin the kind you encounter reading texts of quacks, explaining how homeopathy works. Vi~Aqua also claims that with electromagnetic encoded energy it reduces the surface tension of water. More precisely:

The Vi~Aqua system works by altering the natural surface charge of suspended particles and acts to modify the Zeta potential. The negative charge, induced by the applied signal, enhances the stability of the suspension by means of increased electrostatic repulsion between particles. This is due to the resultant double layer of ions that surround particles and vessel / pipe surfaces which are in contact with the water.
The modified “zeta – potential” facilitates improved hydration of solids and reduced surface tension of the water, thus creating the Benefits that will be see in your grass or crop.

This reduction of the surface tension should be easy to measure. Why doesn’t Vi~Aqua show some results of such measurements? We just have to be sure they don’t smear a little soap on the antenna they stick in the water ;-)

But let’s not judge too fast. Maybe they did found a breakthrough in agriculture, but are just completely off when explaining how it works and even science needs to develop an new understanding (hey, that’s what all those quacks say, isn’t it?)  What about the results in practice they mention and the endorsements of happy customers?

There are some results of experiments from 1998 described in Full Scientific Report (pdf). A closer look at those three experiments learns that none were blinded, statistical analysis is not properly done, but even when we don’t make too much fuzz about that, the differences found were not that impressive. No where near the 46 percent heavier crops of carrots as mentioned in the article by Howard Lawler (who also was responsible for two of the experiments in the document).
Lawler mentions in the video above, that it’s not just the water, you also have to take better care of the plants. If a little difference in care is so important, it could easily explain the differences found in the unblinded experiments. The caretakers can easily have given a little more proper attention to the ‘treated’ plants. And there all sorts of ways bias can have had an effect (judging the growth, determination of the moment of harvesting). It shouldn’t surprise anyone that this research was never published in a serious scientific journal.

And what about that endorsement by Royal Botanical Gardens, mentioned in the article and of course also on the website of Vi~Aqua? A spokesperson of the gardens responded as follows to an e-mail from a commenter on a blog which criticizes the article of The Irish Independent:

Thank you for your email dated 29 August. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has not endorsed the Vi-Aqua products since 2009. A recent press article in the Irish Independent that mentioned this endorsement and activities by Kew around it, was inaccurate.

On Twitter they stated however that they hadn’t endorsed Vi-Aqua since 2006. But apparently they have been fooled for a while as well [see Update below].  Also a golf club has something to say about their alleged endorsement: the system has not been in use for at least 10 years.

Vi~Aqua sells these bogus products for different customer categories. For the farmer who might need a huge capacity of 25.000 litres per hour, but also for people who own just a small garden or balcony and have just a few plants to water:

For those who have just a few pants to water

For whom who has just a few plants to water

Free business advice to Vi ~Aqua: putting an antenna in a bucket still seems rather troublesome to me, but I guess it shouldn’t be too difficult to transfer the technology into a mobile phone app  ;-)

But wait! Wasn’t electromagnetic radiation just killing for plants?

See also: Question: Has Ireland’s biggest newspaper lost its goddamn mind? (and the comments) and Energized Water: pseudoscientific snake oil.

I blogged a similar piece about this in Dutch on: http://kloptdatwel.nl/2013/09/02/vi-aqua-magisch-water-uit-ierland-laat-planten-sneller-groeien/


Update 28-9-2013The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew) respondend to a Freedom of Information request and published the agreements they made with Vi~Aqua concerning endorsing their product. The first agreement was signed for three years in 2003 and it was renewed in 2006. RBG Kew states that they began a trial with the Vi~Aqua system in 2003 to see if the product might be an effective way to treat hardness in water. They tested several other systems as well and in the end they found that a water treatment system using reverse osmosis was more effective at treating the water than the Vi-Aqua system. RBG Kew stopped using the Vi-Aqua equipment as a result of this finding. The endorsement ended at the end of the three year term (in 2009).

To me it seems rather odd that you agree to endorsing a product which you still have to put through rigorous tests even if you get it for free.

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  • Sevan

    I think you misunderstood what I’m saying. I’m saying the idea of such things open the avenue for a new world, not a new world order. Failing to connect all of the dots and taking it the rest of the way leaves us only condemning real physics. It is as simple as the states of Matter, infusing anything with photon light and the frequencies associated with it will allow it to return to its original state. To deny the answer of positive growth within organic organisms, especially mammals, does not heavily rely upon the quality and state of the Water they drink is to deny 70% of our makeup. When you look in to works such as Masaru Emoto’s and even deeper thinkers you fine this to be self evident. But I suppose he’s a quack also according to your opinion which is that of common opinion, so in effect nothing new can or will be conceived by such a mind state.

    It is a fact that there is nothing that we embark on together that will fail, infusing water with Photon energy is a big step towards energy for the body so instead of kicking them down the ladder why don’t you put your mind to it and lift the concept even higher by making your own attempts. We condemn our own brothers yet we not dare bring an insulting chart to our real oppressors who keep the vast knowledge of nature in a state of disarray and confusion amongst its own inhabitants minds. Backwards I tell you, or is it Back -Words. Oh that’s right the words are backwards which serves to change the direction of your brain, and how you think. A new race is upon you, Super humans with common sense not super slaves without any. In the Gnosis?

    • http://www.pepijnvanerp.nl/ Pepijn van Erp

      Cannot make heads or tails of your comment. It’s far easier to construct these kind of nonsensical texts using the The Postmodernism Generator, and that’s free tip. I will now block you for a while, that will be better for the both of us.

  • Sevan

    Well close mindedness will get you no further than your statement on homeopathy. It appears the world is now fertile with disbelievers who have not even tried the products they disclaim thus fueling a never ending cascade of disinformation. You need to start realizing that if the mind of our inventors was as rigid as yours you wouldn’t even have a computer to type this mess of an article you are writing.

    In conclusion you will find a great deal of things that you do not know, but you cannot discredit the students of higher learning with a miniscule view on the reality. After all you probably don’t know that you have Chakras, and a body that is an exact replica of the Universe, such is the likes of the mind controlled. Insulting Vi-Aqua is akin to a midget standing on the shoulders of a giant in order to see further but in this case its to disprove the existence of the very thing that may in fact expand the human you know as Pepijin.

    A expansive level of our creative capacity is now upon us however the old mind, the one strand fight or flight reptilian side of the brain must be put in its proper place. Wholeness

    • http://www.pepijnvanerp.nl/ Pepijn van Erp

      So you’re so ‘open minded’ that you actually believe the pseudo-scientific bullshit of Vi~Aqua? That kind of open mindedness did not lead to the development of computers. Or airplanes, because why wouldn’t flying carpets suffice?

  • http://www.pepijnvanerp.nl/ Pepijn van Erp
  • Tim Thomson

    Some users of the technology are also fooled apparently, by the excellent performance of the system! Used to good effect in New Zealand, and also in the Italian tomato industry. Don’t be too quick to condemn!

    • http://www.pepijnvanerp.nl/ Pepijn van Erp

      If you don’t use proper controls and blind you experiments in a proper way, it is very easy to fool yourself. Using a new system might well be accompanied by a more thoughtful treatment of the crops, which is responsible for the observed improvement.

      • Tim Thomson

        Agreed, but if you take two adjacent pieces of pasture, and treat them the same, except for treated water on one and untreated on the other, then analyse the grass and root system chemically and by weight, you would have to admit that a significant difference would be convincing! These tests have been carried out in New Zealand, and I have been in touch with the people involved and seen photographs. I shall be visiting them later this year to see it on the ground.

      • http://www.pepijnvanerp.nl/ Pepijn van Erp

        If the set-up was not properly randomized and blinded, I wouldn’t put too much value on these results.

      • Tim Thomson

        Your choice – I’m neither scientist nor salesman. I have seen enough positive evidence to persuade me to try it out for myself.