Towards a chemical-free elimination of biofilm

Biofilm is defined as an “aggregate of bacteria that adheres to a surface”[1]. This so-called “bacterial adhesion”[2] is like a living tissue on the pipe’s surface, and is a paradise for bacteria of all kinds, providing a nutrient-rich environment which facilitates growth.  Indeed, a staggering 99% of the world’s bacteria are found in biofilm communities[3].

Biofilm and organic deposits can collect in pipes and lead to clogging – a constant source of frustration to farmers, who previously had little choice but to turn to chemical remedies. For those eager to avoid this, the Aqua4D system is a simple and ecological solution. The water is treated with a safe, low-frequency electromagnetic frequency which modifies its structure. Among other effects, it reduces the adhesion forces between organic matter and pipe surfaces, meaning that biofilm does not develop as it no longer adheres but flows right through:

Without Aqua4D

With Aqua4D

Research has shown that a major cause of infectious disease in agriculture is the development of biofilm in water supply pipes[4], and the festering environment this provides for bacteria.

A study at the Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences looked specifically at the poultry industry, with a trial involving the drinking water of 55,000 chickens[5]. In the group whose water was treated by the Aqua4D system it was evidenced that the elimination of biofilm by the system’s technology had a variety of knock-on effects: “water treated with the AQUA4D PRO60 device and used as a drinking water for chickens induces the growth of birds, favourably effects their digestion, their liveability”, as well as increased levels of phosphorus and calcium.

Meanwhile, in the same year, a PhD study at the University of Savoie[6] in France noted a biofilm layer decrease of up to 74% after a 45-day trial in a lab environment. It was also noted that practical application in the field with higher flow rates would lead to up to 100% of biofilm being eliminated.

Indeed, this is exactly what has since been proven at various installations across the world. Notable recent examples from early 2018 include a validation study on a mushroom farm in the north of Thailand, and the case of Pierre Guyomar, a tomato grower in Brittany, northwest France. Guyomar’s cooperative was suffering from clogging problems which after analysis, proved to be down to biofilm in the drippers. After trying and failing to resolve this using chemical solutions, they turned to Aqua4D; even after a year of use without flushing, the pipes have remained completely clear (full video and interview below).

The evidence is mounting, therefore, in favour of ecological and non-invasive treatment against biofilm. As far back as 1988 it was found that “Biofilm bacteria display a resistance to biocides that may be considered stunning”[7], with even straight hydrogen peroxide having limited efficacy due to its interaction with the biofilm’s enzymes. More recently, a 2016 study showed the ineffectiveness of chlorination, with rapid repopulation of biofilm within seven days of treatment, meaning success only comes at the price of constant chemical use.[8]

With these examples, and results from new validation studies constantly emerging around the world, it is increasingly clear that ecological and chemical-free solutions to biofilm are the way forward.

Pierre Gyomar – tomato producer  in France

Loic Conan – tomato producer  in France

[1] Encyclopaedia Britannica, Biofilm: https://www.britannica.com/science/biofilm

[2] McClean et al, 2012, “Training the Biofilm Generation”: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3510606/

[3] Dalton & March, 1998, “Molecular genetics of bacterial attachment and biofouling”, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0958166998800554

[4] Ogden et al, 2007, Applied and Environmental Microbiology., . V. 73. P. 5125–5129: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1950966/

[5] Bobinienė et al, 2012, “The impact of a biofilm removal from water supply systems”: https://vetzoo.lsmuni.lt/data/vols/2012/59/pdf/bobiniene.pdf

[6] Gérard et al, 2015, Hydraulic continuity and biological effects of low strength very low frequency electromagnetic waves: Case of microbial biofilm growth in water treatment: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0043135415300919

[7] LeChevallier, 1988, “Factors promoting survival of bacteria in chlorinated water supplies”Appl Environ Microbiol. 1988 Mar; 54(3):649-54: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3288119/

[8] Mathieu et al, 2016, “Bacterial repopulation of drinking water pipe walls after chlorination”, Journal of Bioadhesion and Biofilm Research, Vol. 32, Issue 8: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08927014.2016.1212989