An agriculture company, based in Utah, USA, is using nanotechnology to spur better harvests, and they are getting noticed for their work.
Aqua-Yield in Draper made it to the 100th spot on the 2017 Entrepreneur 360 list of the best entrepreneurial companies in America. It was one of the only businesses addressing agriculture on the list — and the only Utah agriculture company. They are tackling plant growth from the microscopic level, hoping to improve the world’s food production.
According to nano.gov, nanotechnology deals with the manipulation of atoms and molecules. Landon Bunderson, chief science officer at Aqua-Yield, explained that the medical research field has been exploring nanotechnology for many years, and Aqua-Yield is following that lead, but targeted to plant health.
“Using a nano particle, we can deliver nutrients more efficiently to the plant and leaves. This is a more targeted delivery system,” Bunderson said.
This results not only in a healthier plant, but one that requires less water and fertilizer. Clark Bell, Aqua-Yield CEO, said during their first trials on sod grass, the bluegrass sod grew six months faster than normal bluegrass. Bell said at this point, Aqua-Yield has also been applied to apples, alfalfa, cabbage, cilantro, citrus, corn, cotton, greenhouse hay, melons, onions, parsley, pecans, peppers, pistachios, spinach, tomatoes, turfgrass and vegetable starts.
They’ve seen success with Aqua-Yield’s nano products in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin. They are currently working with onion growers in Texas and watermelon farmers in Florida. They believe watermelons will mature about three weeks earlier with Aqua-Yield nanotechnology.
“That’s three weeks less water, and that makes a big difference on large acreage,” Bunderson said. “We’re definitely reducing the amount of water through the crop cycle and harvest.”
Bell started the company with his father. The Bells own Biograss, a sod farm, and explored nanotechnology to more efficiently grow their product. They launched Aqua-Yield in 2014, and have expanded their reach every year since. By the end of 2018, Bell said they expect to be in 40 states and six different countries: Norway, Australia, Japan, Bulgaria, South Africa and Canada.
“We want to impact feeding the world,” Bell said.
While they look globally, they also are focused locally — especially in Utah County. Bell said Aqua-Yield has been partnering with peach and apple growers in Utah County to run trials. Clark Burgess is a peach and apple farmer and owner of Burgess Orchards in Alpine. Burgess is in trials with Aqua-Yield, and said he hopes to see results during this year’s harvest.
If Aqua-Yield is successful for farmers all over Utah County, Bell believes they will reduce the fertilizer runoff that ends up in Utah Lake. Bell said Aqua-Yield mitigates the need for loads of fertilizer because the nanotechnology delivers the fertilizer’s nutrients more efficiently and directly to the plants, resulting in less waste and run off.
“Our goal is that farmers will be able to add four ounces of Aqua-Yield to each acre — on a local, national and global scale,” Bell said. “This equals better crops and less environmental impact.”
Photo Credit: Isaac Hale, Daily Herald