Irish start-up NanobOx has secured first-round funding of EUR 900,000 from a consortium of venture capital investors led by the international agrifood and aquaculture technology investor The Yield Lab, along with DeepIE Ventures and Growing Capital. This funding, they reported, will support product development and field trials in aquaculture, with the aim of going to market in 2024.
The company, a spin-out from University College Dublin (UCD), has developed novel, patented nanobubble aeration technology that generates high concentrations of oxygen enriched nanobubbles from air with a very low power requirement. Nanobubbles are the smallest possible size of bubble, having the highest rate of oxygen transfer.
“Our technology uses a low-voltage electric field to generate nanobubbles directly in water, using less power than a lightbulb,” explained John Favier, CEO and co-founder of NanobOx, with Trinity College Dublin engineering professor, Mohammad Reza Ghaani, who developed the technology while at UCD. “Nanobubble generation is therefore unaffected by the solids loading and is resistant to fouling.”
Salmon, trout and mollusk farming
According to the members of NanobOx – winner of Enterprise Ireland’s Big Ideas ‘One to Watch’ award in 2022-, maintaining dissolved oxygen concentration in water is critical to almost all controlled biological processes, but the technologies employed in the USD 50 billion-plus water aeration market are highly inefficient.
Favier explained: “We uniquely generate nanobubbles from air that are enriched with oxygen, providing an oxygen-transfer efficiency of 90%, compared to less than 20% using conventional aeration”. And adds: “The nanobubbles are long lasting and act as an oxygen buffer as dissolved oxygen is consumed by fish or microbes.”
NanobOx is initially targeting salmon, trout and mollusks farming, land-based and marine, with plans to develop solutions for shrimp and other species. “Our first-generation products are being designed under exclusive license from UCD for use in aquaculture,” stated Dr Favier. “We aim to radically cut the cost of oxygenation, as well as enhancing animal health and boosting growth rate.”
Chemical-free cleaning and sanitizing system
NanobOx technology also has application as a chemical-free cleaning and sanitizing system using air or ozone. Enriched oxygen air nanobubbles are highly oxidative when they break and provide a chemical-free means of suppressing phytoplankton, sanitizing pipelines and reducing the microbial loading on seafood to increase its shelf-life. The much greater numbers and longer lifetime of ozone nanobubbles means they have a much higher intensity of disinfection and will travel further in water handling lines than the larger-sized bubbles used in conventional ozonation.
Seeking producers and co-development partners
The company, explained Favier, is now seeking producers and co-development partners wishing to get early access to their innovative technology to reduce oxygenation costs and enhance performance.
Field trials of the novel nanobubble aeration technology are under way in Ireland with Goatsbridge Trout Farm who operate a flow through, semi-RAS and with Connemara Abalone in their land-based abalone shellfish farm.
Long experience and path
CEO Favier has over 30 years’ experience in biosystems research and development and in business-to-business (B2B) technology as a company founder, business leader, mentor and consultant. In 2003, he founded DEM Solutions, an engineering software company, that became the global market leader in its sector. He subsequently managed a US engineering software business and worked as business consultant and mentor with start-up and early-stage B2B technology businesses in the USA and Europe.
“Prior to entering business, the CEO of the company spent 10 years in agricultural, food process and environmental engineering academic research. John holds a BEng and MEngSc from UCD and a PhD from University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.”
For his part, Reza Ghaani is an associate professor in Trinity College Dublin’s School of Engineering, with a background in materials science and chemical engineering R&D and over a decade’s experience in design, construction and testing of water-treatment technologies. Following his discovery of the electric field method of generating nanobubbles at high pressure, he developed a range of novel nanobubble generators that can be operated at ambient pressure.
In 2019, Reza Ghaani was funded by the Enterprise Ireland Commercialization Fund to scale-up and test his prototype generators under process conditions with hydroponics irrigation water, bioreactor media and meat-processing wastewater. He holds a PhD from University of Milano Bicocca, a MSc from Tehran Polytechnic and a BSc from Isfahan University of Technology.