AgTech: Enriching the Microbiome with Directed Selection

This month marks the one year anniversary of BioConsortia, Inc., an innovative ag biotech company which has developed a revolutionary Advanced Microbial Selection (AMS) process involving directed selection of the plant microbiome to identify microbial teams that improve plant traits and increase crop yields.

Following the Series B funding of $15 million in March 2014, BioConsortia established a US headquarters, completed initial US field trials, built state-of-the-art R&D laboratories, brought together a world-class team of biological scientists and top ag industry executives, and began generating US-originated leads with its Advanced Microbial Selection (AMS) process. The US organization complements the R&D team and work in New Zealand, where the company was originally founded in 1994 and where the breakthrough conception of the AMS process was made in 2009.

BioConsortia uses an approach similar to the method used by plant breeders to improve plant traits: using directed selection to discover teams of microbes that influence the expression of beneficial traits in crops. This novel and patent-pending process works by controlling the seed genetics and the environment while changing the microbial community in order to shift trait performance in the crop toward improved targeted phenotypes.

The 2014 US testing program included a range of sites across the Midwest. Each of the leads were tested as seed treatments in combination with typical chemistries on two corn seed hybrids. The results showed that BioConsortia's treatments generated yield enhancements with striking consistency, superior to the controls that included both chemical and biological seed treatments. A single spring wheat trial with two leads also showed double-digit yield enhancements.

Dr. Susan Turner, BioConsortia SVP R&D commented, "Moving over from New Zealand, it was important to get consortia in the ground to show potential partners our ability to transfer this novel approach to commercially relevant field performance. The field trials we completed generated consistent, positive yield enhancements on top of leading chemistries in high yielding conditions that are widely accepted as challenging to show such benefit. We have put together an experienced team of scientists who are setting the stage for further improvements and success in our expanded program this year."

In addition to an expanded program in corn and spring wheat with both past and new leads, BioConsortia will also be placing multiple leads into a sizable soybean trial set. Plans are also underway in select crops for Latin America and Europe.

CEO Marcus Meadows-Smith states, "2014 was very successful in demonstrating the potential of our unique R&D platform, using directed selection, guided by DNA sequencing and microbiome data, to identify teams of microbes that improve crop traits. Our field trial results bode well for a future of highly effective and sustainable microbial solutions for growers."

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