New company pitching bubbly, nutrient-rich water
ROCKVILLE, Md. (Jan. 16, 2018) — A Maryland company wants to help growers infuse oxygen and nutrients into their plants through an innovative delivery method: tiny bubbles.
The concept from NABAS Group Inc. garnered the judges’ attention at the Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit’s first AgPitch competition in December, where the company earned first place.
As the winner, Lee received $7,500 from the competition and inclusion in a business accelerator program.
“There are other technologies like this,” said Ben Lee, president and CEO of NABAS, which stands for nano air bubble aeration system. “When it comes to delivering oxygen and ozone into water, I consider them to be like a dial-up modem, and ours is like fiber optic cable.”
The company uses a patented system to infuse tiny, gas-filled “nano bubbles” into water.
Those bubbles are just the right size — about half the diameter of a strand of hair, on average — to succumb to the water’s pressure and burst beneath its surface.
That infuses the nutrients, from oxygen and ozone to nitrogen, into the water so plants can readily absorb them.
A farmer could use the technology to add 20 parts per million of dissolved oxygen to the water, for example, before irrigating — and up to 90 percent of those nutrients would be available to the plants.
Along with infusing more oxygen into plants, “our system delivers gas into water, which means we can use ozone to naturally disinfect” plants or animals, Lee said. “We can deliver gasses such as carbon dioxide or nitrogen that are food for the plant.”
This process can increase crop yields by up to 20 percent and preserve a harvest’s freshness for up to seven days longer, according to company research. The technology hails from South Korea, where it is already in use; NABAS Group is the first to bring it to the United States, Lee said.
So far, the most popular agricultural use for the technology is in greenhouses, where a $10,000-$20,000 NABAS water pump could meet a grower’s needs.
Lee said he’s already worked with Farm Credit to establish financing options for the units.
The company’s research shows delivering oxygenated water to plants can increase yields on high value crops such as tomatoes by 14 percent.
The infusion also improves the fruit’s color and flavor by increasing its Brix content, Lee said.
Spraying products with ozone-infused water as a natural disinfectant helps remove bacteria and extend their shelf life by up to seven days.
“Basically, you get 14 percent more revenue, because you’re selling by the pound, and it looks nicer and tastes better. These are bottom-line benefits to the farmer,” Lee said.
Lee said the technology is ideal for hydroponic growing operations where water is already the main delivery for nutrients and small units can easily be installed indoors, but it can also be used in the field.
If a farmer is using NABAS technology to irrigate large fields, the unit would need to be installed as a fixture to the property inside a pump room.
Lee said those projects often are more difficult to finance.
Nano bubbles are not the only method for infusing water with nutrients. Some operations use liquid oxygen, but it can lower the temperature of the water and it does not remain in the water as long as when it’s delivered through these bubbles, Lee said.
The nano bubbles also have an array of potential uses beyond growing crops, including sewage treatment, aquaculture and cosmetics.
“NABAS is an enabler for the solution,” Lee said. “The customer decides what the bubbles will carry.”