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Summing Up a Year of Duckweed Farming

December 31, 2013
Duckweed Farmer: One part wet feet One part McGyver One part pure bliss

Duckweed Farmer:
One part wet feet
One part McGyver
One part pure bliss

This post is a brief summary of how I developed GreenSun Products during its first year. GreenSun is one of the first duckweed farms in the United States. Maybe it will inspire you for your own duckweed venture!

January 1, 2013  I officially announced to my family that I was starting my own duckweed production and processing company for pet food. Then spent an agonizing five weeks coming up with a name for the company!

Mid-February    Established GreenSun Products as an LLC in the state of KY. Developed several pet food formulations with varying duckweed species and began testing of same. Filed for patents. Drove every duckweed expert in my circles crazy with questions.

Mid-March    Negotiated with owner of several ponds for leasing for duckweed production. Built prototypes of various duckweed harvesting boat and net systems.

Early April  Sourced duckweed species for my first pond seeding and began monitoring growth habits. Worked with a neighboring farmer to dig test pond for doing controlled pond vs wild pond system comparisons.

Mid-April   Began seeding ponds and building pier. Researched solar drying systems and did tests of various models (Thanks Paul!) Launched first solar-powered duckweed harvesting boat. (Thanks Vegan!)

Late May   First harvests from both wild and controlled systems for open air solar drying tests.  Built several test solar hot air drying systems. First open house for GreenSun Products showcasing controlled pond and duckweed products.  (Thanks Gina!)

Late June   With engineer, Ron Putt, began developing a washing station for duckweed biomass. Began hand harvesting/transporting of 300 pounds of duckweed at a time for current 20 ft test solar dryer. (Ugh.. carrying all that duckweed in buckets up wooden steps every day!) Developed a method to efficienty de-water duckweed. (Thanks John!)

Mid-July   Began harvesting large scale batches of duckweed via mechanical pumping (ahhh….SO much easier!) for fully operational solar dryer- 50 ft model. Worked with Susan Metzger of Renaissance Marketing to understand customer needs. Began working with graphics designer on packaging and labeling. Optimized temporary washing and dewatering system.

Early August   Began pelletizing and flaking duckweed formulations. Transported new duckweed washing station from Alabama (Thanks Ron!!!) and did test runs with it.

Late August   Presented on GreenSun’s progress and represented the ILA at the ICDRA conference at Rutgers University. Confirmed processing plant location after months of searching. (Thanks again, Vegan!)

Early October   Began shutting down pond operations for winter and began dismantling/reassembly of solar dryer tunnel to do winter tests at new processing facility. Lots of local media attention via nice newspaper article and television coverage of GreenSun’s first Open House in conjunction with Mother Earth News . 422 hits on my blog in one day!

Mid-November   Processing facility power and water functional. Started rennovations on both the facility and laboratory therein. Resumed writing urban farming of duckweed book- editing stages.

Late December   Built lab cabinetry, ran water/sewer lines. Sourcing wet chemistry equipment currently.  Currently sourcing  large scale flaking equipment and bio/solar heated dryers for spring production.

While I admit to doing much of the actual elbow grease, I could not have done it without the wisdom and support of the following folks: Paul Skillicorn, Mark Johnson, Ron Putt, Susan Metzger, Gina McCord, Lewis Landesman, Robert Fulton, Ryan Integlia, Hamdi Shaar, and all ILA Round Table members. Many, many thanks to each of you.

A special thank you to my children for  putting up with me using our kitchen as a laboratory and workshop for months on end, helping me with lifting the really heavy stuff,  and for still allowing me to walk with them through Walmart with duckweed in my hair. I love you.

Wow. A new year… Product on shelves… Enough funding to actually HIRE wonderful people for the first time… I can hardly wait!

Tamra

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 23, 2014 9:34 am

    >Resumed writing urban farming of duckweed book- editing stages.
    I didn’t find “Order now” button 🙂
    But I’ll look again.

    Thank you for a report, it’s great example to any business starter / developer.

    I’m now waiting for a 2014 report.
    (and, you don’t need to write that on December 31.)

    Like

    • January 31, 2015 11:50 am

      Working on it! Will be sure to get you that “order” button ASAP.

      Like

  2. January 2, 2014 8:50 pm

    That will be awesome!!!

    Like

  3. Florent Berthet permalink
    January 2, 2014 12:38 pm

    Awesome, thanks for the report! Let’s make the next one full of big figures. 🙂

    Like

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