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Duckweed Travel Adventures

January 6, 2015

1208140225eIn December, I traveled to the Philippines as a consultant on a duckweed pilot project. I was gone for eighteen days.. It took 23 hours of flights to go from Iowa’s frigid cold and snow to Manila’s heat and humidity.  It was a lovely shock to my system to see green landscapes in the middle of winter. I couldn’t get enough of the rice paddies, mango trees, towering bamboo forests. Still, the prettiest green of all… DUCKWEED PONDS!Duckweed Trial Pond

My contacts at MP Wood Philippines Inc. turned out to be an energetic, highly talented group of people who saw to it that I was treated to the whole Filipino experience-home cooked delicacies, entertainment, in depth exploration of both rural and city life including several market visits, and scenic travel around the region. I experienced cultural events like a pre-wedding celebration that lasted all weekend in a tiny village and a Christmas show, food, and gifts for underprivileged children, hosted by sixty Montessori school children. What stunned me was that the kids sang and danced to the very same contemporary holiday songs that my daughter sang in last year’s elementary school program in Kentucky. The holiday song circuit is indeed a global one,IMG_20141216_092131

I was introduced to researchers, university heads, professors, students, a wide variety of farmers and their farms, as well as the extended families and friends of my hosts. We would all talk late into the night after tucking away amazing meals. No need for a TV as the conversations were always lively. I felt almost guilty as I was having WAY too much fun.


Solar dryer showing heat collecting tunnel and dryer itself.

I did put in plenty of time on the duckweed pilot though. I ran hundreds of water quality tests and duckweed mat profiles. I did a ton of practical research on local organic fertilizers and solved algal bloom issues. I expanded the pilot to include another large pond for a new sustainable model and trained a couple of folks in monitoring techniques.  I helped tweak the design on a half-finished solar dryer. It was almost finished on the day that I left. I knew it was going to be a winner when a thermometer broke from the heat in the dryer’s solar tunnel. Now THAT’S HOT!

The last evening, the team surprised me with a going-away dinner in a Chinese restaurant. The featured dish of the evening was roasted wild boar. Very delicious. I felt like they killed the fatted calf for me and I was deeply moved. We toasted our friendship and united vision for a more sustainable country with glasses of Red Horse beer. They asked me to come back and I promised I would. Beyond the business side of things, I do feel like I’ve left a piece of my heart in the Philippines. Lovely country, lovely people. Great place for duckweed production.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 3, 2015 12:19 pm

    That solar tunnel looks great, thanks for posting the picture. Do you happen to have any other pictures of the setup (chimney, shelves, etc.)? Did it have a fan or was it passive convection? And btw, how is your giant solar dehydrator you built in 2013 working out? 🙂 Thanks for sharing your experience.


    • February 4, 2015 4:06 pm

      Hi Noah. I have pics somewhere on the shelving but will have to hunt them down. There is a bit more detail in an article published by the International Steering Committee on Duckweed Research and Applications (ISCDRA) this past month. The system blows solar heated air through several shelves and then up through the chimney. My first solar dehydrator worked quite well unless we had a lot of rain. Then it took longer to dry the duckweed. I had such bumper crops that I resorted to assisting with electric dryers. THAT I do not recommend. 🙂
      I dismantled that dryer at the end of the season and reassembled at my research facility in town that winter. Unfortunately, neighbor gangs (13 year olds with nothing better to do) torched it and spray painted, “Grow weed!” on it. I declined. Am looking forward to building a couple of new dryers this spring at my ponds. No gangs out there unless you count ticks…


  2. nono permalink
    January 7, 2015 8:26 am

    welcome back,
    and don’t forget to work on a book. 🙂


  3. January 6, 2015 7:20 pm

    Your posts are “interesting” but give NO use able or technical info on what you do. We want to dry ducked inHaiti but there are NO pLans or details on how you build this stuff. If you reallywant to must give more SPECIFIC details. Not only this but EVERYTHING. You have nice anecdotes and stories but no little info to help others. I don’t learn anything from your posts. Sorry. KEEP on in spite of grumps like me!


    • January 6, 2015 9:09 pm

      Dear Ron, I can understand your frustratation, however my first few dozen posts describe several simple growing scenarios and drying techniques. Three years before starting this blog, I began spending a great deal of time, effort, and personal funds to educate myself and achieve my current level of commercial production and applications. I now offer my expertise on production, harvesting, drying, and processing as a paid consultant or in partnership arrangements and would be happy to discuss either with you. Feel free to join the and the ILA Round Table where the duckweed experts hang out and give advice to other members.
      Best to you and your duckweed project.


  4. January 6, 2015 7:08 pm

    That sounds amazing! The connections you made will be priceless. Good luck in 2015 for a most prosperous duckweed production!


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