Nano-Shield almost sounds like a teeny tiny super power that plows through the soil, boosting fertilizer to supersize plants, making them grow bigger, stronger, and smarter?
While it may not do all that a comic book character could do, nanotechnology (conducted at a size that is significantly smaller than the naked eye) based ag products actually do make plants and plant products like fertilizers work smarter.
Aqua-Yield, a relatively new agri-business that uses nanotechnology in all its products, began with Aqua-Yield biofertilizer with Nano-Shield technology.
“Aqua-Yield uses nanotechnology to increase the effectiveness of fertilizer. It provides a higher percentage of plant nutrient uptake while using less overall fertilizer,” said Clark Bell, CEO of Aqua-Yield with his dad, Warren, and partner, Mike Bullock. “Producers save money by using less fertilizer and gain production through increased root mass and increased yields.”
At several farms, Aqua-Yield has conducted trials that show less fertilizer needs to be applied when Aqua-Yield is used.
“In our trials, we have been able to cut the amount of fertilizer by 25-40 percent and still improve yields,” Bell said. “On the low end, that is 3-5 bushels/acres but we have seen better yields than that.”
Different crops demonstrated different yields, but all crops increased yields with the use nanotechnology.
“Aqua-Yield typically saves a producer about $5 an acre,” Bell said.
The business started when Bell convinced his dad, Warren, to use nanotechnology in fertilizer in 2012.
Warren, owner of BioGrass Sod Farm in Utah, a company started by Clark Bell’s grandfather in 1979, grows grass for sod every year.
But Bell thought the grass could be improved by using nanotechnology with the fertilizer.
He told his dad about his friend who started adding this new technology to his steam-cleaning mix for his dry cleaning business and found his production greatly improved.
So Warren and his son conducted a trial to find out if nanotechnology would improve the delivery of the fertilizer.
On one 30-acre field, they put 200 gallons of standard fertilizer. On the second 30-acre field, they put 100 gallons of standard fertilizer, and fertilizer plus nanotechnology. On the third field, they only put 25 gallons of the fertilizer with nanotechnology.
The grass in the third field grew about three months faster than grass in the first field and used less fertilizer than all of the fields, so money was saved.
“This was something else. I knew then it was going to work. We were changing an entire industry, and we realized nanotechnology could work on a lot of other crops as well,” Bell said.
How does Aqua-Yield’s nanotechnology work in fertilizer?
Aqua-Yield starts with ultra-purified water, removing particles and impurities that can get in the way of fertilizers and herbicides.
Next, they create nanoparticles, reducing or enlarging the size of fertilizer particles by up to 100 times.
The combination results in a molecular shield (Nano-Shield), as water molecules surround the smaller fertilizer particles, and wrapped in the Nano-Shield, the nanoparticles enter the plant with high efficiency.
“The result is that the fertilizer is more potent and particles are absorbed directly into the leaf and root cells in your crop,” Bell said.
They have found Aqua-Yield significantly improves root establishment, and the plant grows better vertically.
“Our research in North Dakota showed with Aqua-Yield, there was an increase in root mass as much as 35 percent versus before nutrients were more available, he said.
Only 30-66 percent of the action of nitrogen and phosphorus normally gets to the root, and there is even less available with runoff.
With Aqua-Yield, producers use less fertilizer and what they do use gets to the root, increases root mass, and is taken up by the plant.
Nutrients can be bound up in the soil, but with nano-sized fertilizer particles, the nutrients are freely available when the plant needs them.
Bell sums up the results they have found with Aqua-Yield: higher germination and plant establishment, soil nutrient rebuilding and maximization, reduction in volume of fertilizer saving money, time saved in being able to produce more crops in a shorter time period, an average 20-30 percent increase in density and root mass, and increased yields.
Since the original product, Aqua-Yield has added NanoPro, which enhances pesticide uptake; NanoRise, which improves liquid fertilizer products; NanoGro, which speeds up growth and builds soil health; NanoPack, which adds micronutrients, NanoPhos, which maximizes the crops’ response to phosphorus, and other products, to its list of nanotechnological ag products.
“We consider all our products biofertilizers and sustainable ag products that are healthy for the soil,” Bell said.
The company has won several awards for its innovative products and efficient use of nanotechnology.
Aqua-Yield has quickly expanded and now sells to companies all over the world.
Since 2018, the company is beginning to showcase its products in the Upper Midwest and Northern Great Plains, from Minnesota, North Dakota, to Montana and Idaho and states nearby.
“We’ve just started up in North Dakota-Minnesota, and hope to show growers how adding Aqua-Yield can improve the plant’s uptake of nutrients and improve the delivery of fertilizer,” Bell said.
Bell said as the population of the world increases, “We have to be able to grow more and we need to be more efficient and still improve the soil.”
In addition, commodity prices have been down; lease prices are high, and it is difficult for farmers to be profitable.
“Saving $5 an acre adds up for producers,” he said.
By 2050, studies project that the world will have to feed 9.7 billion people.
“And 75 percent of arable land won’t be farmable. We need to speed up efficiency and improve the soil, and nanotechnology can do that,” Bell added.