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The Capitalism vs. Climate Change articles in this column focus on companies innovating in businesses providing solutions related to climate change Adaptation and Mitigation and climate Restoration initiatives. I am most interested in ARM investments in three broad areas:
- Post-Carbon Industry
- Grid Evolution and Efficiency
- Agricultural Technology (AgTech)
(Read more about what I mean about these focus areas here.)
Moleaer (/Mo-Lee-Air/) is a wonderfully innovative company commercializing emerging scientific discoveries related to microscopic oxygen bubbles. Nanobubble technology can be applied to a wide selection of industries, but this article focuses mostly on Moleaer’s AgTech applications.
- As frequent recurring outbreaks of foodborne illness caused by E. coli and other pathogens show, our food system is under increasing stress as we attempt to feed our expanding population using concentrated factory farming techniques. Foodborne pathogens and ecosystem destruction from synthetic fertilizer use are both agricultural problems that stand to worsen as average atmospheric temperatures rise.
- A California-based start-up named Moleaer is successfully commercializing scientific insights from the emerging field of nanobubbles — microscopic oxygen bubbles that, when injected into a watering system, fundamentally improves the quality of that water, boosts plant growth and health, prevents the growth of common water-borne pathogens, and can replace harmful chemicals used to remove food-borne pathogens.
- Moleaer’s business has grown rapidly on the basis of the effectiveness of its nanobubble technology in various fields, and the company presently operates on three continents. It has been showered with accolades and has raised roughly $11 million of early-stage investment money from some very smart investors. The company is currently raising another round of capital to fund its growth trajectory.
Moleaer’s Solution to a Growing Problem
The frustrating thing about these outbreaks is that they seem to be resistant to conventional methods of washing and food preparation. E. coli outbreaks in leafy vegetables that have caused the deaths or severe infections of hundreds have been associated with produce that has been triple-washed using chemical baths.
Readers of this column will also be aware of water quality problems related to the runoff of synthetic fertilizers that cause destructive algal blooms in lakes and enormous oceanic dead zones at the mouths of river systems.
As climate change creates drier soils and more stress on plants (see my Climate Catalysts article from February 10, 2021), the land suitable for farming will shrink and the amount of effort needed to generate crop yields that grow with population will increase.
Innovations arise when smart people look at problems from whole new perspectives and explore paths less traveled. California-based Moleaer is the picture of an innovative company, with enormous potential to prompt a paradigm shift in the agricultural world away from chemical treatments and toward a more sustainable, effective, and non-toxic way of doing things.
Moleaer has successfully commercialized an emerging scientific field related to the injection of microscopic oxygen bubbles — nanobubbles — into water. Nanobubble-infused water has shown amazing results in solving many of the insoluble (pun intended) problems of modern agriculture.
The Wonder of Nanobubbles
Be honest. The image in your mind when you read the word “nanobubble” is similar to mine before I spoke with Nick Dyner, Moleaer’s CEO.
Before our conversation, I could not help thinking of the animated Yellow Tang in Pixar’s Finding Nemo that had an unhealthy love of his tank’s aeration system.
Clear that image out of your mind. Nanobubbles are like nothing you’ve ever considered before. They are as different from jacuzzi bubbles as Newtonian Mechanics is from Quantum Mechanics.
Nanobubbles are enormously small — only around 80 nanometers in diameter. At that size, roughly 2,500 nanobubbles would displace the same volume of water as a single grain of table salt; trillions of nanobubbles are pumped into irrigation and other systems fitted with Moleaer’s equipment.
These trillions of nanobubbles do not rise to the surface but diffuse through the water into which they are injected, fundamentally changing the chemistry of the water in a way that is an unalloyed good for plants and the humans that rely on them.
As hard as it was for me to believe, nanobubbles have been scientifically proven by academic and industry researchers to:
- Increase crop yields in greenhouses, vertical, and conventional farms.
- Increase fruit and vegetable health and size and protect against heat stress and leaf root infections caused by Pythium and other water pathogens.
- Disrupt the growth of biofilms that give rise to food-borne diseases in seafood, meat, and vegetables.
- Irrigate plants in microgravity (astronauts love kale too).
- Clean plastic and metal surfaces used to prepare food more effectively than common chemicals.
- Clear freshwater reservoirs of algal blooms.
- Increase the health of fish in aquacultural installations, reduce harvesting time of farmed salmon, significantly improve oxygen utilization, and remediate sea floor damage.
- Cut bad odors in water and wastewater treatment facilities.
May I repeat — this phenomenal increase in health, sanitation, and effectiveness in various, disparate fields is not brought about by some wonder drug or expensive radiological treatment. No — it is made possible by a clever mechanical manipulation of the element with atomic weight of 16 — Oxygen.
Moleaer the Company
Moleaer started down the path of commercializing its technology in 2017 — about the time that academics were starting to publish surprising discoveries about the scientific properties of nanobubbles.
Through partnerships with industry-leading researchers at world-renowned universities, including UCLA, Clemson University, University of Pittsburgh, Wageningen University, the University of Arizona, Utah State University, and Virginia Tech, the company has validated new applications of its nanobubble technology.
The company protects its proprietary intellectual property with two granted patents and three more pending, and is an internationally recognized leader in this nascent but promising industry. Moleaer was named a winner of last year’s AgTech Breakthrough Awards and was recognized in Fast Company’s 2020 World Changing Ideas Awards.
By the end of 2020, it had delivered over 700 systems to customers in North America, Europe, and South America, including to over 200 greenhouses or vertical farms, and was treating over 100 million gallons of water per day with its systems.
In addition to the many fixed installations, the company has developed several mobile nanobubble oxygenation systems. These can be transported to areas which need only seasonal treatment (e.g., clearing California algal blooms during summer) or for customers that want to test the system’s efficacy (as one wastewater treatment facility did).
Dyner, who experienced the profitability and potential of ongoing service agreements while working at GE is exploring that business model for Moleaer as well — Nanobubbles-as-a-Service (NaaS).
Dyner believes the total available market for his company’s products and services is around $20 billion, and to expand into such a respectable market, he is presently in the midst of raising a new round of investment capital.
Dyner knows, as I know, that we cannot solve the problems facing our food systems using yesterday’s thinking. Innovation means looking at problems from a fresh perspective, and that is exactly what Moleaer is doing.
Intelligent investors take note.