Biofertilizers and Biostimulants

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Biofertilizers and biostimulants are innovative agricultural inputs that utilize beneficial microorganisms and natural compounds to enhance plant growth, nutrient uptake, and stress tolerance. These sustainable solutions offer a promising alternative to conventional synthetic fertilizers, promoting soil health, minimizing environmental impact, and improving agricultural productivity.

Impact on climate action

The innovation of Biofertilizers and Biostimulants under the theme of Low-Carbon Chemicals & Fertilizers significantly reduces reliance on synthetic fertilizers, curbing greenhouse gas emissions from their production. This shift promotes sustainable agriculture, enhancing soil health and carbon sequestration, thereby fostering a more resilient and carbon-neutral farming ecosystem.


  • Beneficial Microorganisms: Biofertilizers contain living microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and algae, that provide essential nutrients to plants, enhance nutrient cycling in the soil, and promote plant growth.
  • Biostimulants: Biostimulants utilize natural extracts, hormones, and other bioactive compounds to stimulate plant growth, improve nutrient uptake, and enhance resistance to stress factors like drought, salinity, and pests.
  • Microbial Interactions: The complex interactions between beneficial microorganisms and plants play a crucial role in nutrient acquisition, plant health, and overall ecosystem functioning.
  • Soil Microbiome: A healthy and diverse soil microbiome is essential for supporting plant growth and nutrient cycling. Biofertilizers and biostimulants can contribute to improving soil health and enhancing the abundance and diversity of beneficial microorganisms.

TRL : Varies depending on the specific product and technology. Some biofertilizers, particularly those based on nitrogen-fixing bacteria, are already commercially available and widely used (TRL 9). Other biofertilizers and biostimulants are still in the research and development phase (TRL 3-5).

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Next-Generation Biofertilizers: Research is focused on developing new biofertilizers with enhanced efficacy and broader applications. This includes identifying and characterizing novel beneficial microorganisms, optimizing formulations, and developing delivery systems that improve survival and colonization of microorganisms in the soil.
  • Microbial Consortia: Combining multiple beneficial microorganisms in a single product can create synergistic effects, enhancing overall plant health and nutrient availability.
  • Precision Application of Biofertilizers: Integrating biofertilizers with precision agriculture technologies, such as variable rate application and seed coating, can optimize their effectiveness and reduce application rates.
  • Bioprospecting for Novel Biostimulants: Scientists are exploring diverse natural sources, such as seaweed extracts, plant hormones, and humic substances, to identify and develop new biostimulants with specific benefits for crop growth and stress tolerance.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Beneficial Microorganism Utilization
  • Natural Compound Biostimulation
  • Microbial Interaction Dynamics
  • Soil Microbiome Enhancement
  • Next-Gen Biofertilizer Development
  • Formulation Optimization Techniques
  • Delivery System Innovation
  • Microbial Consortia Synergy
  • Precision Agriculture Integration
  • Variable Rate Application Strategies
  • Seed Coating Technology
  • Biostimulant Bioprospecting
  • Seaweed Extract Exploration
  • Plant Hormone Utilization
  • Humic Substance Research
  • Enhanced Crop Growth Promotion
  • Stress Tolerance Enhancement

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Indigo Agriculture:
    • Technology Focus: Indigo Agriculture specializes in harnessing the power of plant microbiomes to improve crop health and productivity. They develop biofertilizers and biostimulants that enhance soil health, nutrient uptake, and resilience to environmental stresses.
    • Uniqueness: Indigo Agriculture stands out for its innovative approach to agriculture, leveraging cutting-edge microbiology and data science to develop sustainable solutions for farmers. Their products aim to reduce reliance on synthetic fertilizers and chemicals while improving crop yields and quality.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments include farmers across various crops, especially those looking to adopt regenerative agriculture practices and improve the sustainability of their operations.
  • Marrone Bio Innovations:
    • Technology Focus: Marrone Bio Innovations specializes in developing bio-based pest management and plant health solutions. Their portfolio includes biofertilizers, biostimulants, and biopesticides derived from natural sources such as microbes, plant extracts, and beneficial fungi.
    • Uniqueness: Marrone Bio Innovations distinguishes itself through its focus on natural and sustainable agricultural solutions. Their products offer effective alternatives to traditional chemical inputs, promoting soil health, biodiversity, and environmental stewardship.
    • End-User Segments: They cater to farmers across diverse agricultural sectors, including row crops, specialty crops, and greenhouse production, who seek safe and environmentally friendly alternatives to synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.
  • Lallemand Plant Care:
    • Technology Focus: Lallemand Plant Care develops microbial-based solutions for plant nutrition, protection, and stress management. They specialize in producing biofertilizers and biostimulants containing beneficial microorganisms that enhance nutrient uptake, root development, and overall plant vigor.
    • Uniqueness: Lallemand Plant Care differentiates itself through its expertise in microbial fermentation and formulation technologies. Their products are designed to improve soil fertility, plant health, and crop resilience while minimizing environmental impact.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments include growers in agriculture, horticulture, and turf management, particularly those seeking sustainable solutions to optimize crop productivity and reduce reliance on synthetic inputs.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Wageningen University & Research (Netherlands):
    • Technology Enhancements: Wageningen University & Research (WUR) is pioneering the development of advanced biofertilizers and biostimulants through biotechnological approaches. They are leveraging techniques such as microbial engineering and metagenomics to enhance the nutrient uptake efficiency of crops and improve soil health.
    • Uniqueness of Research: WUR’s research emphasizes the use of indigenous microbial communities and plant-microbe interactions to develop tailor-made biofertilizers and biostimulants. By harnessing the natural symbiotic relationships between plants and microorganisms, they aim to optimize nutrient cycling in agroecosystems while reducing the reliance on synthetic fertilizers.
    • End-use Applications: The biofertilizers and biostimulants developed at WUR have applications in sustainable agriculture, horticulture, and forestry. By enhancing nutrient availability and plant resilience, these products can improve crop yields, reduce fertilizer runoff, and mitigate the environmental impact of conventional farming practices.
  • University of California, Berkeley (USA):
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at UC Berkeley are exploring innovative approaches to biofertilizer and biostimulant development, including synthetic biology and precision agriculture techniques. They are engineering microbial consortia and designing smart delivery systems to optimize nutrient delivery and promote plant growth in diverse environmental conditions.
    • Uniqueness of Research: UC Berkeley’s research integrates cutting-edge biotechnologies with ecological principles to develop biofertilizers and biostimulants that enhance crop productivity while minimizing environmental pollution. They are also investigating the potential synergies between biofertilizers and renewable energy production, such as using biofuel byproducts as nutrient sources.
    • End-use Applications: The biofertilizers and biostimulants developed at UC Berkeley have broad applications in conventional and organic farming systems, as well as urban agriculture and vertical farming. By harnessing the power of microbial communities, these products can improve soil fertility, increase nutrient use efficiency, and support sustainable food production.
  • The Ohio State University (USA):
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at Ohio State University are focusing on developing cost-effective and scalable biofertilizer and biostimulant solutions using agricultural waste streams and renewable resources. They are exploring novel fermentation and extraction techniques to produce high-quality bio-based products with minimal environmental impact.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Ohio State’s research emphasizes the valorization of underutilized biomass and waste materials for biofertilizer and biostimulant production. By converting agricultural residues into value-added products, they aim to create a circular economy model that promotes resource efficiency and agricultural sustainability.
    • End-use Applications: The biofertilizers and biostimulants developed at Ohio State have applications in both conventional and organic farming systems, as well as specialty crop production and soil remediation projects. By repurposing agricultural waste streams, these products can enhance soil fertility, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and promote agricultural resilience in the face of climate change.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Several biofertilizers and biostimulants are already commercially available and being used by farmers worldwide. Examples include:

  • Rhizobium-based biofertilizers: These biofertilizers, containing nitrogen-fixing bacteria, are widely used for legume crops, reducing the need for synthetic nitrogen fertilizers.
  • Mycorrhizal fungi biofertilizers: These biofertilizers improve phosphorus uptake by plants and enhance their tolerance to drought and salinity.
  • Seaweed extract biostimulants: These biostimulants contain bioactive compounds that stimulate plant growth, enhance nutrient uptake, and improve stress tolerance.