If you could choose a superpower, would you ever opt for the ability to create trillions and trillions of tiny, tiny bubbles?
Perhaps not. But before writing off “Bubble Boy” as a movie franchise, it is worth keeping in mind how nanobubble production prowess could actually be a far more useful superpower for humanity than one smug person being able to fly to and fro in a cape.
Nanobubbles today can significantly boost indoor farming and aquaculture yields, as well as improve mining and drilling efficiency. They can be used in water treatment, preventing dangerous algal blooms and can aid waste and filtration systems.
How so? The idea is that if you produce trillions of gas bubbles that are tiny enough, and run them through water, they will not just fizz away and disperse as the bubbles do in champagne or after an embarrassing swimming pool belly flop; instead, they will stick around in suspension. That can be useful if you need to keep your water rich in oxygen, such as on a fish farm where tens of thousands of salmon might be swimming and respiring in limited amounts of water. Equally, hydroponic systems work better when roots have access to water with high levels of oxygen; this can improve their ability to take up nutrients faster.
As these diverse business opportunities emerge, especially with hydroponics facilities proliferating across the world, it is little wonder that nanobubble competition and innovation is starting to fizz. “There are a lot of pretenders to the throne,” says Alistair Cooper of ADM Capital Europe, a London-based private equity firm. As Senior Investment Director at the firm’s $452 million Cibus Fund, Cooper has been scoping out the nanobubble space for the last several months, concluding that the frontrunner for its capacity to operate at scale and precision is Moleaer Inc,
This week, the Cibus Fund, which is focused on agribusiness, led an investment round of $5 million into Moleaer. The Series B round included at least one existing investor: Energy Innovation Capital, which led a Series A round of $6 million last May.
In a statement, Moleaer CEO Nick Dyner proudly showboated his company’s accomplishments thus far. “In just two years of commercial activity, Moleaer has demonstrated the value of nanobubbles with over 200 systems installed in commercial greenhouses, wastewater treatment plants, produced water treatment facilities, and mining operations,” he wrote. Before setting up the company, Dyner’s professional background lay in water management projects at General Electric and LG Chem. “With this new funding and Cibus Fund’s expertise in agriculture and the global food supply chain,” Dyner vowed, “we will continue to expand our capability to support agriculture customers, and venture into new applications where nanobubbles create significant value.”
Magic Mini Bubbles
The management at Moleaer, which is headquartered in Los Angeles, claims the firm is already capable of producing nanobubble generators that can super-saturate — that is, pack crazy amounts of tiny bubbles into — “any liquid” with “virtually any gas.” They claim to be able to produce trillions of nanobubbles, each less than 200 nanometers in diameter. (For those of us who think in centimeters, that is a width of around 0.00002 cm.)
Bubbles of this size exhibit different properties to bubbles perceptible to the human eye, like neutral buoyancy (they neither fizz up nor sink). They also have high oxygen transfer efficiency, a strong negative surface charge, and an enormous surface area per unit volume. These unique properties, the management says, “are proven to help farmers grow more crops, oil and mining companies to recover more valuable resources, and industries to efficiently treat water and wastewater.”
On matters of due diligence, Cooper described his use of external consultants to check whether sufficient IP was in place and whether the process was viable or scalable. “Frankly,” he told AFN by phone from his London office, his consultants “were astounded by what they saw.” He mentioned case studies where nanobubbles had upped yields and growth rates at cannabis farms and indoor tomato farms.
On its website, Moleaer — which is Latin for “tiny air,” a nice linguistic fit for the portfolio of Cibus, Latin for food — lists a new set of agricultural case studies for a few of its products. One, at Minnesota’s Revol Greens, explains how its product, the Bloom, proved helpful. At Revol, managing the extreme temperature shifts between summer and winter had been a challenge. That bore down on the quality of their water supply. “Supersaturating irrigation water with oxygen nanobubbles has proven to increase nutrient uptake and improve plant development and yields by up to 30%,” the Minnesota case study claims. “In some cases, it can be a substitute for water cooling.”
“We are thrilled with the results we have seen at our Revol Greens greenhouse since installing the Bloom,” Steve Amundson, head grower, is quoted as saying in the case study. “The ability of the system to help manage Pythium in water while promoting plant growth is substantial to our bottom line. The on-average 15% improvement in our yields was very surprising. This technology has demonstrated to us that it should and will be standardized into our current facility and the 3-hectare expansion we are doing this year.” Another more recent case study from March this year found positive results improving incubator growth and health at the Utah Hatchery, and another saw one golf course relieve itself of persistent algal blooms.
So how come Cibus did not get stuck in with its investment even sooner? The real stumbling block for this June’s investment deal, Cooper admitted, involved his own team’s months-long efforts to persuade the Moleaer team that Cibus was the right partner for the next phase of development. “We had to convince them,” Cooper said. Neither he nor anyone at ADM Capital has taken up a board seat at Moleaer.
Partnership Signed With PB Tech
Rounding off a big week of announcements for these buccaneering nanobubblers, this Thursday Moleaer entered into a distribution agreement to promote nanobubble technology in the horticulture market with PB Tec, a firm that develops horticultural solutions via electrical engineering, lighting, water engineering and automation, as well as design engineering and installation. “Moleaer continues to expand its global customer reach through our partner network,” said Michiel de Jong, European business development director of Moleaer. “Growers are looking for next generation technologies to enable them to use water more efficiently and to improve productivity in their greenhouses. By working with PB Tec and through their expertise, Moleaer can reach more growers and help them overcome their irrigation water challenges.”
“Over the years,” chimed in Koen Brabander, commercial director of PB Tec, “we have learned that low oxygen levels in the substrate truly is a limiting factor in plant growth and Moleaer offers the first and most efficient technology to solve this challenge.”