Different types of nonlinear controllers are designed and compared for a simple continuous bioreactor operating near optimal productivity. This operating point is located close to a fold bifurcation point. Nonlinear analysis of stability, controllability and zero dynamics is used to investigate open-loop system properties, to explore the possible control difficulties and to select the system output to be used in the control structure. A wide range of controllers are tested including pole placement and LQ controllers, feedback and input–output linearization controllers and a nonlinear controller based on direct passivation. The comparison is based on time-domain performance and on investigating the stability region, robustness and tuning possibilities of the controllers. Controllers using partial state feedback of the substrate concentration and not directly depending on the reaction rate are recommended for the simple fermenter. Passivity based controllers have been found to be globally stable, not very sensitive to the uncertainties in the reaction rate and controller parameter but they require full nonlinear state feedback.