Nature-based solutions offer the best way to tackle pollution, climate change, and biodiversity loss. The agricultural sector has been slow in combining technology and nature, as well as making it widely accessible.
One innovative nature-based solution is Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies’ (AST) BioEnsure® which helps plants adapt to water-related stress and crops grow in suboptimal conditions using 50% less water. This technology is key for developing innovative energy and climate solutions.
Why do you think companies need to focus on biodiversity and protecting the environment? How can it help their bottom line?
Simply put, biodiversity imparts resilience to agricultural and native ecosystems. This allows plants to better endure climate stresses. Additionally, since the early 20th century, biodiversity in agricultural soils has decreased do to chemicals, tillage, and monoculture.
We need products like BioEnsure that can impart climate resilience to plants, and are designed based on observations in natural ecosystems. Combined with other agricultural practices such as low- & no-till cultivation, these products preserve top soil and prevent ctastraphic events such as the “Dust Bowl” in North America during the 1930’s.
What are the first steps a company, NGO, or farmer should take to increase their biodiversity-focused activities?
Microbes, microbes, microbes! These should be at the for front of progressive agricultural thinking. The earth started as a planet with microbes as the only life – a microbial world. Although we think that the world is dominated by macroscopic life such as humans, all macroscopic life on earth is dependent on microbes! AST and other companies have demonstrated that microbes can be incorporated into agriculture without significant changes to cultivation methods, chemicals applied or seed sources. It is time that NGOs, farmers, agronomists and companies expand their perspectives and persue a more comprehensive approach to crop production.
Speaking of BioEnsure and microbes, can you please tell us more about the innovation?
So, the company’s founders, Dr. Rodriguez and Dr. Redman, began their work in the 1990s with an initial focus on native species – trying to understand how specific plants thrived in adverse conditions. They were able to isolate microbes responsible for this resilience and then shifted to agriculture projects to develop sustainable biologicals utilizing these microbes.
Our approach is based on more than 150 years of research on symbiotic interactions between plants and microorganisms. AST’s first line of products, BioEnsure, has been developed for multiple crop species. The benefits from the products cover five essential areas of successful crop production: improved seed germination, enhanced seedling growth and development, increased stress tolerance, decreased water and fertilizer usage, and increased crop yield. Remarkably, these benefits begin within 24 hours after either treated seeds germinate or plants are sprayed with BioEnsure.
How does your innovation boost crop yields despite environmental stresses?
Our product, BioEnsure, coats seeds or plants in helpful fungi that aid plant growth in high temperatures and reduces the amount of water and nutrients that the plants need. The spray protects plants from drought and heatwaves, giving it the potential to help farmers worldwide grow food in extreme conditions. BioEnsure produces crop yields at a minimum 200% ROI to farmers and can enable farmers to grow plants in historically impossible climates and marginal lands.
Soil biodiversity plays a vital role in mitigating climate change and storing and filtering groundwater. How does your innovation contribute to biodiversity?
It has become clear that healthy soils = healthy plants. Our microbial seed and plant treatments that confer stress tolerances to crop plants. This allows plants to develop healthy root systems under stress that produce fluids that feed soil microorgnisms, resulting in a diverse and benefitical soil microbial community. As a result, AST has seen as high as 85% yield increases under severe drought conditions and up to 15% under low-stress conditions. This technology does not rely on genetic modification or synthetic chemicals and can be applied as an organic biological solution to biodiversity challenges.
Because smallholder farmers are among those most affected by climate change, it is our intention to make this technology available to small and large-scale farmers in developing nations. We believe that increasing agricultural sustainability and crop yields will decrease human hardship, increase food security and lead to more social and political stability around the globe.
How is your innovation advancing women economically?
One part of AST’s plan is to recruit and train women in remote villages to treat seeds for farmers. This would ensure that seeds are treated properly so farmers observe yield increases, allow women to generate money, help sustain the family unit and provide dependable crop harvest for sustenance.
How has WE4F support helped AST?
The majority of farmers globally have to deal with climate stress and most of the farmers are small land holders. Morevoer, there is a clear link between climate stress, food insecurity, political vulnerability and conflict. Additionally, only a small percentage of crop production is irrigated and water availability is becoming more limited. At some point, all countries will suffer climate impacts on crop production.
Working with WE4F has allowed AST to demonstrate that agriculture can be productive on marginal lands and under climate stress. Working with farmers in India has led to the realization that this technology can be applied anywhere and could have tremendous impacts on food security around the world, especially climate vulnerable locations such as sub-Saharan Africa, Middle Eastern countries, and India.
Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies is a dynamic agricultural biotech company focusing on researching and producing symbiotic plant microbes as agricultural crop treatments for farmers. This symbiotic relationship between crops and microbes allows plants to tolerate abiotic stress and increase the uptake of soil nutrients. This dynamic relationship is a cooperative approach to making plants healthier and more adaptable to increasing climate changes around the globe.
AST is continually searching for new microbial symbionts and organic plant treatments to increase agricultural sustainability and farmers’ profitability. The intent is to make this technology available to small and large-scale farmers in first-world and developing nations to help increase crop yields and decrease human hardship.
Yogeeta Sharma is a Communications and Knowledge Management Specialist for the WE4F South and Southeast Asia Regional Innovation Hub. Previously, she has worked with various USAID programs and gained essential experience in the development sector. She loves bringing innovators’ vision into a virtual reality here at WE4F.