Lincoln Agritech designed the state-of-the-art Spydia facility to deliver new fundamental knowledge on water fluxes and nutrient transport and transformation processes between the root zone and the groundwater table (= the vadose zone). Acknowledged as the most advanced vadose zone monitoring system in the Southern Hemisphere, this facility was successfully operated for six years on a farm on the northwestern shore of iconic Lake Taupo. This location was chosen as early signs had indicated that land use change and intensification might threaten the near-pristine water quality of New Zealand’s largest lake and very little research had previously been carried out on the highly porous, volcanic vadose zones typical for the North Island’s Central Plateau.
The novel monitoring system allowed water fluxes to be accurately quantified and leachate to be sampled at up to five depths between the ground surface and the groundwater table. This was achieved by installing automated equilibrium tension lysimeters that used sintered stainless steel technology originally developed for NASA’s space programme.
The Spydia project formed part of a wider government-funded research programme (2003 – 2010) that aimed at getting a better understanding of the effects land use changes and intensification have on the quality of the underlying groundwater. Research partners included AquaLinc Research Ltd and Lincoln University, with additional technical support provided by NIWA, Landcare Research and AgResearch.