Microbe-Coated Seed Startup Could Help Us Thrive In a Dark, Dry Future
A startup by the name of Indigo has attracted some new attention in the form of a new $100 million investment, one of the biggest the ag-tech field has ever seen.
Indigo’s premise is kind of dark. For all the optimistic startup-speak on its website and it the video below, it’s a company that hopes to create seeds resistant to your basic apocalyptic scenario, notably a lack of water, rampant use of fungicides and herbicides, and completely depleted soil.
TechCrunch has a nice tour through the company and what it does, but basically, Indigo’s products are seeds coated in a careful mixture of microbes—the very first of which, a cotton crop, is in mid-season, and none of which have been harvested yet. These microbes are carefully researched and catalogued by the company, placed into a vast database of more than 40,000 individual microbes along with clues about their possible uses in making up for deficiencies like lack of water and nutrients.
There are plenty of helpful microbes in soil already, some supplied by various dead plant matter and some by living plants. Ideally, a sustainable system uses crop rotation—swapping out crops every now and then—to replenish the microbes drained by one crop. But this is not the way things are done in corporate agriculture these days: monocropping is the norm, and those crops are even of the same specific varieties within the overall category of, say, corn.
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