Water That Snaps, Crackles, and Pops

Nanobubbles are about to blow you away.

In 2016, the California startup Moleaer used nanobubbles to improve aeration for wastewater treatment plants. No big deal, right? Yeah, but then came water tech guru (and Moleaer’s new CEO) Nick Dyner with visions of using the proprietary nanobubble pump in water treatment and mining, and to improve animal and plant health.

And it worked: Four years downstream and Moleaer has tripled in size. It has installed more than 1,000 systems globally and is now treating more than 225 million gallons of water every day in agriculture, aquaculture, surface water, and natural resources.

The growth brought a needed $9 million Series B funding led by S2G Ventures.

But hold up, let’s rewind to the nanobubble pump part.

With Molaere’s system, trillions of teeny-tiny air bubbles are pumped into water, flat-out saturating it with O2. At one 2,500th of the size of a grain of salt, these bubble babies can hang out longer, giving the oxygen more time to impact the liquid’s chemical makeup. We’re talking 83% more oxygenation than the water in any competing system.

Like Fiji water for the farm: Farmers use aerated water in plant irrigation to boost nutrient conversion and help nix water-borne illnesses in crops.

Moleaer claims their water can reduce crop loss to diseases by 50%. The results? They’ve seen increases in crop yields by 20%; berry size by 14%; yields of specialty crops by 25%; and biomass of salmon by 22%.

What’s next for nanobubbles: Moleaer is working with university folks to further research their systems for use in sustainable seafood farming, ocean restoration, algae reduction, replacing chemical washes for fruits and veggies, and more.

The Slippery Slope That Has Been WOTUS

Water debates in agriculture have been on a wild ride. And a new memo just out of the EPA is signaling more of the same.

During the Trump administration, the Navigable Waters Protection Rule removed federal oversight from several tributaries and waterways. Now, Biden’s team is suggesting a new flow – one that will repeal the rule.

First, a bit of a history lesson:

1972: The Clean Water Act was established to regulate discharges of pollutants in U.S. waterways.

2015: President Obama created the Clean Water Rule, or as many in agriculture know it, Waters of the United States (WOTUS), under the Clean Water Act. The rule included oversight by the federal government of minor streams and wetlands, which caused agricultural groups to question its clarity and how it would affect farmers and ranchers.

2019: The Trump administration formally repealed WOTUS, citing a major power grab by the federal government.

2020: The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers published the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which helped define “waters of the U.S.” and provided a sigh of relief to farmers and ranchers.

Now that we’re caught up: Biden’s EPA said the changes by Trump caused “significant environmental degradation” – saying dry places like New Mexico and Arizona were especially under water with problems. One of the EPA’s concerns is the more than 300 development projects that may be polluting waterways in those states.

Tributary? More like Tribu-hairy: Now Biden wants to reverse the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, and farmers and ranchers are not here for it. The administrator of the EPA says they’re “committed to establishing a durable definition of ‘waters of the United States.’” A proposed new EPA rule could take effect later this year.

California’s Commodity Creation: Water

Last week in California, water became a commodity crop.

And like many resources with a supply- and demand-strained relationship, water found its way to a futures contract.

Investors across the globe now have access to the CME exchange where they can buy and sell the right to purchase water at a particular price tied back to the state’s $1.1 billion water spot market.

The Farmer Effect: Producers who get in on the bidding will have the chance to protect their water costs against price jumps and lock in some stability. For a state that uses 4x more water than any other state in the country, producers won’t be passive in their attempts to protect their pocketbooks.