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By Sarah Bloch, Senior Scientist
It’s incredibly exciting for a scientist to see his or her innovation make it out of the lab and into the world where it can have a direct impact. At Forbes AgTech Salinas Summit I saw that quite literally, from field tours of the farm economy to lively discussions with ag industry leaders, and an in-depth panel on how to restore our soil’s health. The summit addressed tough problems facing today’s farmers, while showcasing innovations and possible solutions. I was proud to represent the great milestones our team at Pivot Bio has accomplished.
Things got off to a great start on the first day of the conference when Pivot Bio was named one of Forbes 25 Most Innovative Startups in 2018. What an honor!
With so many interesting topics to cover, I was pleased to be a part of the soil health panel with Wayne Honeycutt, Ph.D., president & chief executive officer of the Soil Health Institute, and Poornima Parameswaran Ph.D., co-founder & president of Trace Genomics and moderated by science editor at Forbes, Alex Knapp. I shared how Pivot Bio is offering farmers a new, first-of-its-kind solution for precise nitrogen management by developing a microbe that produces nitrogen for corn throughout the growing season. It was a fitting topic as Dr. Honeycutt shared the work that the Soil Research Institute is doing to understand living soil microbiome and Dr. Parameswaran shared Trace Genomics’ methods for understanding changes to soil health.
Modern agriculture’s dependence on nitrogen fertilizer has caused microbes to turn off their natural ability to produce nitrogen and changes the way plants and bacteria depend on one another. At Pivot Bio, we’ve discovered a way to reawaken the nitrogen fixation process and we’re excited to be in a community of researchers that are invested in broadening our understanding of what it means to have a healthy living soil.
Soil health and nutrient management are inextricably linked; increased soil health is associated with greater nutrient retention and less leaching of nitrates into groundwater. The effects of a strategy that pairs existing soil health practices with precision nutrient management could have a multiplicative effect on reducing fertilizer inputs while improving productivity.
Resource use was one of three big themes to emerge from the conference. Labor was another, with demonstrations of automated harvesting machines to meet an acknowledged labor shortage and panels featuring the newest generation of farmers (like the tongue-in-cheek session titled, “Lazy Millennials”). Regulatory discussions were also a prominent part of the Summit. As the bar is raised on expectations of farming and environmental care, it’s up to us to provide the tools we need for the next iteration of agriculture.
Forbes AgTech was a great introduction to some of the world’s most innovative ag technology and a powerful lesson in the problems facing farmers. We’re in the midst of a busy growing season, testing our microbes across the U.S. Corn Belt. I’m excited to bring knowledge gained from the Summit back to my team and share the impact our work in the lab has in farmers’ fields!
Pivot Bio is a leader in the field of precision microbial adaptation. Our unique process is designed to realize the full potential of microbes at the genetic level, allowing farmers to change the way they provide nutrition to crops, reduce usage of fertilizers and provide a sustainable approach to feeding our world’s growing population. For more information, contact us at: