Photo of Axel Leonel Córdoba

Energy & sustainability

Axel Leonel Córdoba

Its hydrogel with essential nutrients for plant growth reduces the water and fertilizer needs of agriculture.

Year Honored


Latin America

Hails From

Water consumption has increased worldwide. The climate crisis is also causing more and more droughts. Less water availability for an increasing demand is a bad combination in a world where 40% of the world's population is already affected by water scarcity. A problem to which more and more people are exposed. The main consumer of that water, almost 70%, is the food industry, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). 

Argentina has been experiencing a growing drought since 2019, especially in Patagonia. Aware of this problem, geologist Axel Leonel Córdoba has created a biodegradable material that helps reduce water consumption in agriculture. His breakthrough is called Hydroplus. Thanks to his development, which also reduces the use of fertilizers, Córdoba has been selected by MIT Technology Review in Spanish as one of the 35 winners of Innovators under 35 Latin America 2022. 

This young Argentinian has come up with a granular powder that hydrates when it meets water. Hydroplus absorbs several times its weight in water. By retaining water, it forms a kind of gel near plant roots. The material slowly releases water and reduces water use by 50%. In addition, it contains essential nutrients that it releases as the plant needs them. Its supply of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium for plant growth reduces the need for fertilizers. The young man details, "Hydroplus obtains more efficient irrigation by reducing water losses through infiltration and evaporation while providing the elements the plant needs." 

Córdoba's objective is to replace the current hydrogels, which can contaminate land and crops, with its innocuous alternative based on natural components with a useful life of three to five years. After that time, it biodegrades. Its product is intended for agriculture and domestic use in gardens, pots and small orchards. "We seek to create a culture of appreciation and optimization of water use," says the innovator. 

The geologist's short-term plans are for his hydrogel to be applied in nurseries and orchards in his native Patagonia before expanding to the rest of the country. The final step is to make it an alternative for agriculture worldwide. The Córdoba project aims to combat drought and the excessive use of agrochemicals.