40 / SEEDWORLD.COM JUNE 2018 THERE IS A certain technology that’s smaller than a water molecule, but bigger than bac- teria. It can have higher payloads than specific compounds, and it has the ability to recognize its target. What is the technology? It’s nanotechnology, and you can bet that it will make waves in the seed treatment space, as AquaYield looks to soft launch NanoShield later this year. Founded in 2014 and based in Utah, AquaYield has primarily been focused on fertilizer technologies to deliver nutrients directly to plant cells. But for the past year and a half, co-founder Clark Bell and his team have been intensely focused at moving this same technology to the seed treatment space. “We’ve been dabbling in seed coating for the past three years but working really hard at it for the past 18 months when we realized the potential crossover,” Bell says. “Recently, we’ve been testing it on all different seed types all over the United States, from turfgrass to lettuce.” The results, he says, have been impressive. Bell and his team look to do a soft launch in the Southern United States later this year. As an example, Chris Hendrickson, a biology professor at National University and consulting sci- entist for AquaYield, says that by using NanoShield, one Florida lettuce grower turned another full crop. “These are naturally occurring compounds that stimulate germination of the seed, anywhere from 50 percent to 300 percent faster than the norm,” Hendrickson says. Another example Hendrickson points to is Kentucky bluegrass, which normally takes any- where from two to four weeks to germinate. He says they are seeing an improved germination rate in five to seven days. “If I’m a golf course manager, this means I can get my turf up much faster,” Hendrickson says, noting a number of applications this technology can benefit. These include hydroseeding, erosion control and anything requiring high inputs. Bell says, “when it comes to delivering nutrition to the seed, this technology is on the cutting edge, especially when we consider what’s happening in the areas of seed coating and the microbiome.” What is Nanotechnology? Nanoscience and nanotechnology involve the abil- ity to see and to control individual atoms and mol- ecules, according to nano.gov, the official website of the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative. To help put this in perspective, Landon Bunderson, AquaYield chief technology officer says that nanoparticles are about 1,000 times smaller than a plant cell. “You can imagine something of that size is much better at getting into the plant cell — that is what it is designed to do,” Bunderson says. “The hallmark of a nanoparticle is that it is designed to do something. “In the case of NanoShield, it is designed to recognize its target and to carry an increased pay- load with a time-release mechanism. It’s kind of like smuggling nutrients into the plant,” Bunderson says. NanoShield is a nano-sized protectant that goes around nutrient ions, making it unavailable to the soil; now it’s only available to the seed, he explains. This nano-coat delivers nutrients more efficiently to the seed and stays on the seed. Bell says they are able to use traditional seed coating tools, and the liquid constituents they add contain the nanoparticles. “It is a component of the coating,” he shares. “It’s a coating that contains specialized particles that helps realize better results.” The basis of NanoShield is NanoGro, a “liquid sink fertilizer product” they had developed for growers. Bell, who says he’s never been happy with the status quo, says the end game for AquaYield is to provide farmers with optimized products that drive better yields, less waste and that are more environmentally friendly. Some of the biggest benefits may come from the smallest of technologies. Julie Deering jdeering@issuesink.com New Seed Treatment Technology to Make Waves Landon Bunderson is the chief technology officer of AquaYield. Clark Bell is the co-founder of AquaYield.