The application of model based control techniques to biotechnological processes is often hampered due to the lack of reliable on-line sensors. This problem can be tackled by the application of software sensors, in which the available hardware measurements are combined with the model equations. The resulting estimates serve as additional measurements useful for process monitoring and control. In this paper, an observer based estimator for the specific growth rate based on on-line viable biomass measurements is studied. Several fed-batch experiments with baker's yeast in a stirred tank bioreactor illustrate the design, tuning, and implementation from a practical point of view. The main contributions of this paper are to illustrate (i) the implementation and validation of the presented algorithm in real-time, (ii) the use of an advanced on-line biomass measurement, and (iii) the design and tuning of the algorithm from a practical point of view. Real-time knowledge of the specific growth rate is important because it yields information on the viability of the cells and it can be used in real-time feedback control algorithms.