Innovation That Matters

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Microbes boost agricultural sustainability and productivity

Agriculture & Energy

A method for developing agriculture products involves ‘prospecting’ for microbes and isolating useful DNA to create new products


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Spotted: It is estimated that there are more than a trillion different microorganisms existing in ecosystems on our planet, and around 99 per cent of them remain unknown. Startup Symbiomics is hoping that some of them may provide ways to reduce carbon use in agriculture and create new biopesticides, biofertilisers, and other products to improve crop productivity.

The company is engaged in “bioprospecting” – collecting microbes from different environments around the world and analysing them to isolate stretches of microbial DNA that can be used to promote growth and tolerance to environmental stresses in plants. The company hopes to become the owner of one of the world’s largest collections of microorganisms, and use this library to develop new biotechnological tools and products.

The process begins with the identification of microbes in different natural environments, and selecting strains that have superior compatibility with seed treatments and chemicals. Symbiomics then conducts genome sequencing and data analysis to generate insights about the best combination of microbes for a specific application and develops strains compatible with agricultural use.

Mariana Ramos Leandro, lead research scientist at Symbiomics, explained that “We travel to these different environments and collect the microorganisms associated, for example, with soils.” The microbes can then be used to create biotechnological tools and products to help crops adjust to climate change. “This is only possible due to the large amounts of data generated from the sequencing of metagenomes and complete genomes of microorganisms and their analyses using bioinformatics.”

In addition to farming, microbes are being used in a huge number of innovations. Some that Springwise has spotted include the use of forest fungal networks to accelerate carbon capture, and cleaning up oil spills with the help of oil-eating bacteria.

Written By: Lisa Magloff




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