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Duckweed for Ducks

February 9, 2016

Am in Indonesia this month, working on a duckweed-related venture. Part of what I love about my job is getting to explore the unexpected in search of duckweed strains. Last weekend, a duckweed hunt took me to the communities around the international airport of Jakarta

. My colleague and I used Google maps of the area, then narrowed down to a few sites that looked promising for duckweed. We rented a taxi for a few hours ($10 for three hours!). We through heavy traffic and narrow alleyways in search of the elusive duckweed ponds that looked easy to access from a Google map but were another story to find with the tiny unnamed streets we encountered. We got out several times to walk a few more blocks to where the concrete or tin homes lined fish ponds and rice paddies.

We were happy to at last find healthy duckweed thriving in water that smelled like a sewer and laden with bobbing bottles and trash of all sorts. Nearby, the rolling, acrid smoke of a burning trash dump made our eyes water. We spoke with a local carp grower who was busy harvesting duckweed with a small net and bucket. He said that the duckweed made his fish taste better.

Later, we ran across another farmer harvesting duckweed for his ducks. He said they had better weight gain and eggs and meat tasted better as well. He invited us back to his home and watch his ducks get fed their evening ration of duckweed. We got to see his backyard where he raises ducks, fish, and some food crops. We got to meet his family, and had lots of photo ops with the neighbors. As we returned to the waiting taxi laden with duckweed samples, a young girl put her arm in mine and called to her friends to come see her visitor as we walked along. Many people came out of their homes and I greeted as many as I could. Fun times.

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Ducks eagerly gobbling duckweed.

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Mr. Mang harvests wild duckweed every evening to feed his ducks.

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The Mangs and a couple of cute neighbor kids.

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