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Maintaining a stable pH across hundreds of acres of aquafarm and over 40 aquaponds.
Plantible Foods currently have 26 ponds between Texas and San Diego. 8 of their big ponds in Texas have a Bluelab IntelliDose Controller. This changed their process from manually dosing pH and nutrients to dosing on a set schedule with full automation.
Maintaining a 0.3 pH either side of the target range, enabling the crop to double in size every 48 hours. Saved 52 full days of labor by using automation rather than hand dosing.
Increasing yield to serve a high demand market with the Bluelab IntelliDose Controller
Plantible Foods was created in 2016 by Tony and Maurits, two Dutch entrepreneurs who sought creative solutions to rebuild the food system from the ground up in order to address the climate crisis. They discovered RuBisCO (or Rubi Protein™), a natural enzyme that provides the same nutrients as animal proteins and is abundant, scalable, and affordable to produce.
Lemna duckweed is one of the most sustainable, nutrient-dense plants in the world. The tiny aquatic plant contains up to 45% protein, can be grown year-round, and doubles in bio-mass every 48 hours. The team at Plantible Foods grows Lemna duckweed in controlled aquafarms, that allow for the continuous recycling and retention of fresh water, removing the need for arable land mass.
Carter Winn is an Operations Manager at Plantible Foods and is responsible for agriculture technology and automation management.
Lemna duckweed – a high yield and a high-value crop
Duckweed can double in mass every 48 hours. So, we have to harvest our ponds every few days, or they get too thick. It grows in a saline solution, and it’s insanely efficient with its resources. It’s 45% protein, and it grows very fast. We harvest it constantly.
And, while duckweed grows in water, it’s more efficient than a crop like lettuce grown in soil, as it uses very little water.
Once harvested, it’s turned into a powder, which is sold. For example, clients are using it as an egg replacement for pastries and bread, and a lot more. We’ve done blind taste test comparisons, and you can’t tell the difference – Rubi Protein™ has no color and no taste. This is just the start – we can’t make it fast enough. Now, the goal is, how do we grow as much as possible?
How a stable pH produces higher yield
When I first came to Plantible, we were manually controlling pH. That was my main job when I started - I would check each pond, and based on that reading, I would have to add pH adjuster and try to fix it manually. That became very labor intensive because we were checking pH twice a day. I’d then have to go and weigh the pH adjuster and dump it in. The other thing was that even though I was spending so much time, it wasn’t controlling the pH very well. We had a wide range of between 5.5 pH to 7.5 pH, and it was even hard to stay within that, sometimes.
That’s when we tried a Bluelab pH Controller in one of the ponds. Once we put that in, I fixed the pH at 6.2 pH. It never strays away from 0.3 pH above or below. It is just way more stable.
“With the Bluelab pH Controller, our pH never strays above or below 0.3 pH. It is way more stable. ”
Carter Winn, Operations Manager, Plantible Foods
That’s when we took it to the lab. My co-worker ran an experiment with pH control, and discovered that a more stable pH brought us higher yield.
We are now using less acid, so it’s cheaper, and we’re getting a higher yield. It’s a lot of big things from one little box!
We switched to acid for pH control and it gave us more stability with less materials.
From manually adding nutrients to full automation, saving a full 52 days a year in labor
At the time, we had pH control in one greenhouse. We now have 12 in California, so we put an IntelliDose in every greenhouse for full automation.
Now we have a facility in San Diego, and as an Operator looking after the ponds, I was wondering, how are we going to scale it to 40 ponds that are a quarter-mile long? For example, we were manually dumping nutrients in. We only had two of our big ponds, and one pond would take the full crew a day to add the nutrients. There was no way this was scalable.
"One pond would take the full crew a day to add the nutrients. There was no way this was scalable”
Carter Winn, Operations Manger, Plantible Foods
We needed something user-friendly, and we needed automation for every pond. We did some research and decided that the IntelliDose was the right choice. Now, the crew just fills up the reservoirs and they sit there for weeks before we fill them again. It’s a lot easier.
When it comes to the hardware, that stuff was easy. The whole setup was very smooth. I can show people how to do it, and then they can do it on their own after that.
What’s next - becoming the biggest aqua farm in the world
We have 12 greenhouses in California, and in Texas, we're going to have over 40 ponds, and they are huge. They're a quarter mile long and 50 feet wide. We will become the biggest aqua farm in the world by far – Texas will be 140 acres. This is just our pilot system. Taking a modular approach, we can grow even larger. The next project will be 1100 acres with 400 greenhouses.
Recommending the Bluelab IntelliDose Controller to other commercial growers
If I can figure out how to use it, anyone could. The Bluelab IntelliDose Controllers are very user-friendly. They would be useful for doing something small at your house or can be used with something as big as this. They’re very versatile and easy to use.
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