Growing more with less

A start-up maximizing water efficiency

Higher yields with less water: that is surely the dream of any drought-prone farmer. Start-up mOasis has come up with a soil additive which is making it a reality. A pilot has proven it be as effective for sugar cane as for high-value crops.

MOasis produces a non-toxic, gel-like soil additive – branded BountiGel – that allows growers to realize better crop yields with less water. It is so promising that business magazine Forbes named the company one of the top 25 agricultural innovation companies of 2017.

BountiGel holds 250 times its own weight in water and is easy to apply to crops. It works by holding excess water near a plant’s seeds or roots, which it then releases as the soil dries out. This not only means higher yields, it also reduces water requirements.

The company is based out of California, which grows a significant proportion of the world's fruit and vegetables, but where water is at a premium. Bountigel has already proven to be successful on a wide variety of higher-value crops such as tomatoes and bell peppers grown under the state's hot, dry conditions. A field test by University California, Davis found the product provided 30% yield increase for broccoli while using 25% less water.

“We’re investigating wider applications on the back of this pilot”

- Steve Hartmeier of mOasis

MOasis took part in Rabobank's Terra Accelerator program in 2017. The program sees large corporates working with innovative start-ups on pilot projects. BountiGel was successfully tested on lower-value sugar crops during a large-scale scientific trial in a different agricultural setting from the company's home base.

Pilot leads to change of approach

“On the back of this pilot, we’ve decided to dedicate resources to investigating wider applications for BountiGel,” explains Steve Hartmeier of mOasis. “We probably wouldn’t have looked at using it for sugar cane without this pilot, but our experience has given us the confidence to consider applying our solution to tree crops such as almonds, apples and peaches as well.”

Rabobank runs a number of incubator and accelerator programs like Terra for ag tech start-ups. Find out more here and here.