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US (NY): With Cornell's support, CNY company using algae to fuel ag innovation

For as long as there has been life on Earth, there has been algae.
“Diatoms were there at the beginning, and they became the basic food for life,” said Lou Lamphear, executive partner at Pure Future, a new Central New York-based company that, with the help of Cornell AgriTech, is betting that the future of agriculture will feature a revisiting of the past.

Pure Future grows a specific proprietary blend of freshwater algae in custom-built photobioreactors at its Skaneateles facility, which opened at the end of 2022.

They use these algae to develop solutions for agriculture – and the ag-tech world is already taking notice. Pure Future is the exclusive provider of Purus brand algae ag products for Cleanstrike and has several other private-label partnerships geared toward hemp growers, home gardeners, turf management and other specific applications.

Connecting with Cornell AgriTech
Pure Future began working with the New York State Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech (CoE) in 2019. CoE Business Development Specialist Ed Maguire connected the company to several Cornell faculty for potential research projects, continues to assist Pure Future in acquiring funding, introduced the company to other businesses for potential strategic partnerships and provides ongoing mentorship as their business begins to grow.

“There are so many doors that started to open thanks to working with Cornell,” Lamphear said.

After more than three years of field trials, Pure Future has launched its initial product line. What makes their products meaningful for the market, Lamphear said, is that they’re custom-tailored to solve specific issues – just like a prescription from a doctor.

“Products were built from the growers needs first, backing through the layers into manufacturing ensuring that existing grow protocol is preserved, desired results are achieved, and that economic modeling fits the existing distribution and support systems in place that serve the market,” Lamphear said.

Growing algae, growing the business
Lamphear cited a few real-life examples of Pure Future’s impact: A hemp grower in Tennessee saw a 33% increase in growth with a foliar application, meaning the liquid product was applied directly to the leaves. In this case, Purus dry fogging technology provided a dry mist of particles as small as five microns, allowing for even distribution of the algae cells, which can number in the hundreds of millions per milliliter for this application.

A wheat farmer in Virginia wanted to increase yield by 5% and needed a product that could be used with existing irrigation equipment under existing protocol. Lamphear said the farmer saw a 15% increase in yield, soil improvements and cost savings.

“Algae is only going to explode in popularity,” Lamphear said. “We help solve problems today, but we can also help solve bigger problems for the future. Algae is sustainable, all-natural, healthy, and leaves a much-improved biological footprint that will continue to improve our environment.”

There are more than one million species of algae, but Pure Future only wants to grow specific freshwater strains they have identified and tested with proven benefits for crops. To ensure the consistency, efficacy, safety and purity of its products, Pure Future built its facility for maximum growth, efficient workflow and the highest consistent quality.

Municipal water is first run through a resin filter to descale the water, followed by a round of reverse osmosis filtration. The water is then continuously recirculated through a high-intensity ultraviolet sterilization system before being treated with ozone to kill off any remaining pathogens then treated again with ultraviolet sterilization and sub-micron filtration.

The hyper-purified water and algae flow continuously in a series of long, clear tubes that run the length of the production room covered with panels of Photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) spectrum lights so intense that protective eyewear is required for anyone inside the room.

Pure Future can currently produce around 12,500 gallons of product per month but is extending production to double output before the end of 2023. A planned expansion for its current facility in 2024 could increase its production potential to 500,000 gallons a month, creating new jobs and capacity for its operations in Skaneateles to serve customers throughout North America.

Lamphear credits his team, the company’s strategic sales, production, and science partnerships, and Cornell University’s support for making such seismic growth possible.

“Cornell took us and our opportunity seriously,” Lamphear said.


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