Microbial Solutions for soil health

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Microbial solutions involve utilizing beneficial microbes to improve soil health, enhance nutrient cycling, and promote plant growth. These microbes can help to fix nitrogen, solubilize phosphorus, and suppress plant diseases.

Impact on climate action

Microbial Solutions for soil health in regenerative agriculture bolster climate action by fostering nutrient-rich soil, enhancing carbon sequestration, and reducing reliance on synthetic fertilizers. By revitalizing ecosystems, this innovation promotes resilient farming practices that mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to long-term environmental sustainability.


  • Beneficial Microbes: The soil microbiome, which is the community of microorganisms living in the soil, plays a crucial role in plant health and productivity. Beneficial microbes can provide plants with nutrients, suppress diseases, and improve soil health.
  • Microbial Engineering and Optimization: Synthetic biology and other techniques can be used to engineer and optimize microbes for specific agricultural applications. This involves identifying beneficial microbes and modifying their genetic makeup or optimizing their growth conditions to enhance their effectiveness.
  • Microbial Consortia: Microbes often work together in communities to provide benefits to plants. Startups like BioConsortia are developing microbial consortia that can enhance plant health and productivity in a synergistic manner.

TRL : 6-7

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Nitrogen-Fixing Microbes: Startups like Pivot Bio are developing microbial products that can fix nitrogen from the air and make it available to crops, reducing the need for synthetic nitrogen fertilizers.
  • Microbial Seed Treatments: Microbial seed treatments can coat seeds with beneficial microbes, providing plants with a head start in establishing a healthy microbiome.
  • Microbial Soil Amendments: Microbial soil amendments can be applied to the soil to introduce beneficial microbes and improve soil health.
  • Microbiome Analysis and Optimization: Researchers and companies are developing tools and techniques to analyze and optimize the soil microbiome for specific crops and agricultural practices.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Nitrogen-Fixing Microbes
  • Microbial Seed Treatments
  • Microbial Soil Amendments
  • Microbiome Analysis Tools
  • Synthetic Biology Applications
  • Microbial Consortia Development
  • Plant-Microbe Interactions
  • Soil Microbiome Optimization
  • Beneficial Microbe Engineering
  • Microbial Crop Protection
  • Sustainable Agriculture Solutions
  • Microbial Carbon Sequestration
  • Crop Yield Enhancement
  • Microbial Stress Tolerance
  • Microbial Biofertilizers
  • Microbial Disease Suppression
  • Microbial Community Ecology

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Pivot Bio:
    • Technology Enhancement: Pivot Bio develops microbial solutions that enhance nitrogen fixation in crops, reducing the need for synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. Their flagship product, Pivot Bio PROVEN™, contains naturally occurring microbes that colonize the roots of key cereal crops like corn, wheat, and rice, enabling them to access and utilize atmospheric nitrogen for growth.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Pivot Bio’s microbial technology offers a sustainable alternative to traditional nitrogen fertilizers, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, nitrate leaching, and fertilizer runoff while improving crop yield and quality. Their solution addresses the environmental and economic challenges associated with nitrogen fertilization in agriculture.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Pivot Bio serves farmers, agronomists, and agricultural retailers seeking to improve nitrogen management and sustainability in crop production. Their microbial solutions are used in various cropping systems and geographies, helping growers reduce nitrogen inputs, increase nutrient use efficiency, and enhance soil health.
  • Indigo Agriculture:
    • Technology Enhancement: Indigo Agriculture develops microbial seed treatments and digital solutions for improving crop health, resilience, and productivity. Their microbial products, including Indigo Microbial Seed Treatments, contain beneficial microbes that enhance nutrient uptake, disease resistance, and stress tolerance in crops, leading to higher yields and improved quality.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Indigo Agriculture’s microbial solutions are part of an integrated approach to plant health and sustainability, combining biological innovations with digital agronomy and marketplace solutions. Their technology empowers farmers to adopt regenerative practices that enhance soil health, reduce chemical inputs, and increase profitability.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Indigo Agriculture serves farmers, seed companies, and agricultural stakeholders seeking to adopt sustainable and profitable farming practices. Their microbial seed treatments are used in various crop systems, including row crops, specialty crops, and perennial crops, to address challenges related to soil degradation, pest pressure, and climate variability.
  • BioConsortia:
    • Technology Enhancement: BioConsortia specializes in microbial solutions for crop improvement, focusing on microbial consortia that enhance plant growth, nutrient uptake, and stress tolerance. Their proprietary Advanced Microbial Selection (AMS) technology enables the rapid identification and formulation of microbial products tailored to specific crops and growing conditions.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: BioConsortia’s microbial consortia offer a targeted approach to plant-microbe interactions, leveraging natural microbial diversity to enhance crop performance and sustainability. Their technology enables precision agriculture by delivering custom microbial solutions that address the unique needs and challenges of different crops and environments.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: BioConsortia serves seed companies, growers, and agricultural partners seeking to improve crop productivity and resilience. Their microbial solutions are used in various agricultural sectors, including row crops, fruits, vegetables, and turfgrass, to optimize plant-microbe interactions and promote sustainable agriculture practices.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • University of California, Davis:
    • Research Focus: UC Davis conducts research on Microbial Solutions in regenerative agriculture, focusing on harnessing the power of beneficial microbes to enhance soil health, nutrient cycling, and plant resilience.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves identifying and characterizing microbial communities in agricultural ecosystems, exploring their roles in soil fertility, disease suppression, and carbon sequestration, and developing microbial-based products and practices for sustainable farming.
    • End-use Applications: Their work has applications in organic farming, bioremediation, and climate change mitigation. For example, they’re researching biofertilizers and biopesticides containing beneficial microbes for enhancing crop productivity and pest resistance, as well as microbial inoculants for improving soil structure and water retention in degraded soils.
  • Cornell University:
    • Research Focus: Cornell University is actively involved in research on Microbial Solutions for regenerative agriculture, investigating the interactions between plants, microbes, and the environment to develop microbial-based strategies for improving agricultural sustainability.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves using metagenomic and metabolomic approaches to study the functional diversity of soil microbiomes and identify key microbial taxa and metabolites associated with plant health and ecosystem resilience.
    • End-use Applications: Their work finds applications in crop protection, soil remediation, and biofortification. For instance, they’re researching microbial consortia for biological control of plant pathogens and pests, microbial amendments for accelerating composting and organic matter decomposition, and microbial biofortification strategies for enhancing nutrient uptake and food quality.
  • Wageningen University & Research:
    • Research Focus: Wageningen University & Research is a global leader in agricultural research, including Microbial Solutions, focusing on developing microbial-based technologies and interventions for sustainable agriculture and environmental management.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves integrating microbial ecology, biotechnology, and soil science to develop tailored microbial solutions for specific agronomic challenges, such as soil degradation, crop diseases, and nutrient deficiencies.
    • End-use Applications: Their work has applications in precision agriculture, agroecology, and ecosystem restoration. For example, they’re researching microbial biofertilizers for enhancing nitrogen fixation and phosphorus solubilization in nutrient-poor soils, microbial inoculants for suppressing soil-borne pathogens and enhancing plant growth promotion, and microbial biocontrol agents for managing invasive species and restoring degraded ecosystems.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Microbial solutions are being implemented in commercial-scale agriculture, and their adoption is expected to increase as farmers seek more sustainable alternatives to synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.