The Van Trump Report

“Nanobubble” Water Technology Claims to Boost Plant Growth, Improve Sustainability

Water is one of our planet’s most precious resources and its dwindling supply across the globe demands that the we humans figure out how to “do more with less.” That is the key ethos behind California-based startup Moleaer, which claims its patented “nanobubble” technology can improve sustainable food production and processing, water and wastewater treatment, natural resource recovery, and the health of aquatic ecosystems – all without the use of chemicals.

Moleaer uses microscopic gas bubbles, aka “nanobubbles,” to aerate water or other liquids. These nanobubbles, which are about 2,500 times smaller than a grain of salt, stay in liquids much longer than larger-sized bubbles that are typical of traditional aeration devices. Moleaer says that irrigation water enriched with nanobubbles can improve plant root health while also lowering overall water use and reducing reliance on chemical fertilizers. The company claims that growers deploying its nanobubble technology consistently report reduced pathogens, healthier roots, improved vigor, and higher output.

Moleaer’s nanobubble technology was developed by wastewater treatment industry veterans Warren Russell and Bruce Scholten who were looking for a way to efficiently dissolve oxygen in water to better treat wastewater. The process of transferring air to water literally dissolves the oxygen, which creates bubbles. They pair discovered a way to shear off bubbles early in their formation process to prevent them from becoming larger, which keeps the oxygen suspended. In 2016, they decided to commercialize the idea and founded Moleaer. The company just announced a $40 million funding round that was led by New York-based investment management firm Apollo, and joined by Swedish manufacturer Husqvarna.

As Moleaer CEO Nick Dyner explains, “bubbles” take on different properties at around 100 nanometers. For one, they are so small that they lack the buoyancy to overcome the other forces in water so are unable to rise to the surface and pop. Dyner said that existing aeration processes were incredibly inefficient. “What happens is that the bubble forms, starts to rise, and you’re trying to get it to dissolve before it comes to the surface and pops,” he said. “The vast majority of air or oxygen never actually dissolves.”

The nanobubbles are also what’s called “electrochemically active,” meaning they have a surface charge due to the high internal pressure created as a result of their small size. When that bubble ruptures, it forms an oxidant because of the energy it’s releasing. Conversely, when the bubble is intact it reduces the surface tension of the water and can bond to other particulates, acting like a natural coagulant and improving separation processes. What’s more, Moleaer claims it can treat almost any liquid with nearly any gas, which opens the door to countless other industrial processes.  

Dyner said Moleaer’s biggest market right now is agriculture. Moleaer’s systems – called nanobubble generators – connect to an existing pipe and inject gas straight into the liquid. There are multiple generators, including a mobile unit and even one small  enough to fit in the palm of your hand. The company says the “Neo” and the “Clear” nanobubble generators easily integrate into existing irrigation and fertigation systems. There is also a unit called “Bloom” that is designed specifically for commercial greenhouses.  

The company is also pursuing interesting industrial partnerships. One of those includes liquid fertilizer maker RainAg, which partnered with Moleaer to develop a nanobubble-infused fertilizer. Used with corn, RainAg’s nanobubble-infused fertilizer can lift corn yields +16% and cotton yields +12%, according to the companies. Moleaer’s technology is also been tested by the aquaculture industry and has allegedly lowered oxygen costs for salmon farmers by more than 30%.

Moleaer’s technology is being used in numerous other industries including in consumer products, though they are not yet in stores and Dyner says the company can’t share details. Around 90% of Moleaer’s customers use the technology to put air or oxygen into water, but some work with gases, according to Dyner. The company also claims to have the highest oxygen transfer rate in the industry at around 85%. Learn more at Moleaer’s website HERE. (Sources: AgFunder,  Los Angeles Business Journal, HortiDaily, Business Insider)

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