This week Taka Kamezawa took time to discuss what he is working on at TrueAlgae.
Can you describe what your company does and your impact?
TrueAlgae is a biotechnology company that has a very efficient, patented mode of production for making high-quality algae. We can monetize algae in many ways, including chicken feed, fish feed, and nutraceuticals, but our first market is as an organic liquid soil amendment. We are currently selling in bulk to large fruit and vegetable farms in California and Florida. We are also licensing our production technology in Mexico.
Our initial product, TrueSolum, is an organic soil amendment product that has demonstrated 20% yield increases in various fruits and vegetables. We have also proven up to 100% extended shelf life in various berries.
How do you differentiate yourself from competitors?
TrueAlgae currently sells TrueSolum, a natural and OMRI-certified organic solution to decrease the use of chemical fertilizers, improve soil quality, and increase crop yield.
TrueSolum is very different from the other micro and macro algae-based products. Our product is the cultured water, or “metabolite tea”, that results from the growth of the algae. As the algae grow, they express certain valuable metabolites into the growth medium. During harvest we separate the algae biomass from the metabolite tea to produce a clear, nutrient rich, cultured water that is sold to the farmers. The metabolites present in this cultured water act as both a prebiotic for the soil microbes, driving better nutrition into the plant through its roots, as well as a growth stimulant for the plant itself. As it does not contain any algae biomass, it is easily blended into the irrigation water and applied to the fields through drip irrigation, along with other agricultural inputs, without clogging the lines. It can also be used as a foliar application with added benefit.
Independent research has shown that TrueSolum reduced chemical fertilizer usage by 75% while increasing yield by nearly 9% when tested with strawberries. Decreasing the use of chemical fertilizers reduces harmful runoff which create many ecological challenges for our waterways. Our product also helps to sequester carbon in the soil, in direct contrast to NPK chemical fertilizers that emit nitrous oxide, which is roughly 300 times more potent in terms of greenhouse gas emissions than carbon dioxide.
In addition to increasing yield, our product also increases Brix (a measurement of sugar content) which is valuable for certain fruits and vegetables, and longer shelf-life of the crop. It is also pH neutral with no negative impact on the soil ecosphere.
Most of the algae based biofertilizers marketed and sold in the US are macroalgae or seaweed (kelp) based. They include Stimplex, Maritime, and KelpExpress, among others. All seaweed products are farmed in open water creating inconsistent product, potential for contamination and variable effectiveness.
What are some trends in the sector?
Agriculture is the one of the top contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. The use of chemical fertilizers, particularly nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK), are drivers of these emissions. Because of this, there is a global movement to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers. Natural and organic TrueSolum has been shown to improve availability and uptake of NPK from the soil, thus allowing the reduction of NPK applications by as much as 75%, while providing farmers with increased yield and crop quality.
In addition, algae are an important part of a healthy ecosystem. They produce 50% of the oxygen we breathe by consuming the carbon and releasing the oxygen of the GHG, CO2. Through the process of growing algae, TrueAlgae is contributing to a healthier environment, in addition to helping to create healthier soil and crops.
What is next for TrueAlgae?
We will be sharing our latest developments and our exciting future plan in an investor presentation hosted by Bethesda Green on Monday March 22, at 3 pm EDT (register here).
TrueAlgae’s proprietary technology grows algae in a unique, closed-loop, sustainable process. This highly efficient production allows for 50% of the algae to be harvested daily. They have raised $3.1 million so far and have over 30 field trials in motion globally – and for different produce.
There is a clear value add of TrueAlgae’s technology, from increasing crop yield and extending the shelf life of produce. TrueAlgae will contribute to the future of agriculture.
About The Author
Co-Founder at The Impact
Daniel currently works at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. His original assignment was to maintain and update facility safety documentation for all facilities on-site, and perform risk analysis. Over time, his role has expanded to leading continuous improvement efforts through product management.
Concurrently, Daniel volunteers with Techstars, helping organize startup weekends, and with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, organizing events on the local and national levels of the organization. He also volunteers with One World, and previously with Powerhouse Ventures, to source and screen startups for potential investment.
Daniel holds a BS in Chemical Engineering from UC Davis, and recently completed coursework in energy innovation from Stanford. His passion is at the intersection of sustainability, innovation, and business.