DIY microbes for farmers

3Bar Biologics process lets farmers grow their own microbes

Researchers have known for years that certain soil bacteria can enhance crop production, but some of those beneficial bacteria don’t fare well if they’re dried on seeds or mixed into liquid solutions and stored for months in a warehouse. “You’re going to have a lot of death,” says Bruce Caldwell, CEO of 3Bar Biologics. The Columbus-based company is working to introduce a better delivery system, so the beneficial bacteria will be fresh and viable when farmers apply them in their fields.

Research conducted at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) has identified soil bacteria strains native to Ohio that can improve health of agricultural crops and increase yields. However, farmers can’t benefit from that research without an effective way of increasing the populations of those bacteria in their fields. “That’s the gap we’re trying to bridge,” Caldwell says. 3Bar Biologics isn’t involved in identifying beneficial bacteria. Instead, the company has developed a convenient way for farmers to grow their own supply of the beneficial bacteria identified by OARDC.

The Ohio Soybean Council has supported the company’s efforts, and the delivery technology was recognized with an R&D 100 Award in November. The international awards recognize the world’s top technology innovations each year. 3Bar Biologics recently began working on a USDA grant project to develop a biological control product to combat soybean cyst nematode in crop fields.

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