This Aquatic Super Plant Could Change how Cows are Fed

These quick-growing plants can be made into a nutritious animal feed.

A Dairy cow grazing.

(prochasson frederic /

Environmentally friendly, and hyper nutritious, a new aquatic superfood may revolutionize agrotech.Grown in water, this plant takes up less space, and produces less carbon than plants such as soy and alfalfa which are traditionally used as cow feed. 

The California startup FYTO is hoping to change the dairy farming industry with lemna, a type of duckweed that can be grown in aquatic tanks, reported Agfunder News 

Out-innovating Soy
Growing lemna doesn’t require using land, water, or fossil fuels, according to Fast Company. The growing system also eliminates the need for petroleum based fertilizers by using cow manure and creating a loop system.

Lemna is highly nutritious with amino acids, minerals, fatty acids, and  vitamins. This super plant could potentially replace about 50 percent of the cows’ diet. That’s great news because early tests suggest that feeding cows the plant could reduce the methane in cow burps.

“We wanted to out-innovate soy,” Jason Prapas, FYTO’s CEO told Agfunder News. “What makes it such a strong candidate as a protein source? How could we grow something with even better nutritional characteristics while also crushing the carbon footprint? We found our answer in aquatic plants.”

Since 77 percent of the world’s soy is fed to livestock, the startup decided to test their aquatic super plants on feeding dairy cows,according to TechCrunch. In 2021, FYTO ran its first pilot program in Northern California using lemna.

Accelerated Automation
But FYTO is not only innovating the animal feed market in terms of the environment, it is also at the head of the game in terms of technology, according to Fast Company. The whole growing and harvesting process is automated.The plants are monitored by sensors, and when they are ready to be harvested they simply flow out of the system. The water, absent the plants, is then returned back into the system. 

The automation process was actually in large part a result of the coronavirus pandemic, reported Agfunders News. Before the company moved to California, Fyto was based in Massachusetts, but the farm was in Maine. 

When the pandemic shut things down and limited movement, it left most of the team members far away from the plants they were studying. This could have been a disaster, but the team rose to occasion, accelerating their burgeoning 

All of this means that the company will be able to provide a product that is environmentally friendly, with the added value that it takes up a lot less space than traditional feed crops.The hope is that this will result in a product that is as good for the planet and the cows.

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