Discovering New Approaches to Microbes and Biotechnology at SIMB 2019

Sarah Bloch August 8, 2019

SIMB2019

At SIMB 2019 this year, Sarah Bloch, Ph.D. (left) presented on the potential impact of Pivot Bio PROVEN ™, Bilge Ozyadin, Ph.D.  (center) presented on the technical advances made by the research team, and Farzaneh Rezaei, Ph.D. (right) presented the challenges facing the development of a whole microbe product.


 

The 2019 Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology (SIMB) annual meeting took place in Washington DC, during a heat wave where temperatures reached levels not seen since 2016. The rising mercury was a reminder to attendees that we’re facing a changing climate, driven in part by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Pivot Bio has developed a solution for that helps agriculture decrease GHG emissions while helping farmers achieve better outcomes. The solution is found in the teeming diversity of the soil microbiome.  Pivot Bio has commercialized the first nitrogen producing microbe for corn crops. At SIMB 2019, my colleagues and I shared the technological advances that made Pivot Bio PROVEN™ possible, how it can help reduce GHG emissions, and the challenges involved in developing a whole microbe product.

My colleague, Bilge Ozyadin, Ph.D., gave the first of three presentations by Pivot Bio scientist at SIMB 2019. Her talk focused on the technical aspects of editing nitrogen-fixing microbes to not only convert nitrogen from the air into the ammonia plants can use to grow, but also to provide that nitrogen directly to the roots. Bilge focused on four key elements of the nitrogen-fixation apparatus found in Pivot Bio PROVEN™  and ways each one contributes to the overall productivity of the organism. As a result of her team’s research, Pivot Bio is driving toward even better microbial productivity in the field

Using Pivot Bio microbes translates to less synthetic nitrogen applied to the field.  When farmers reduce their synthetic nitrogen applications, there is less excess nitrogen to volatilize as the potent GHG nitrous oxide, or to leach into waterways as nitrate. In my talk, I addressed the impact of a biological  like Pivot Bio PROVEN™ that provides crop nutrition without the issues of volatility and leaching. What’s more, Pivot Bio PROVEN™ can be manufactured with 1/100 of the GHG emissions of an equivalent application of synthetic nitrogen. In fact, right now the largest component in the carbon footprint of producing Pivot Bio PROVEN™ is the packaging. As we refine our product concepts and formulations, we’ll be able to provide more nitrogen in a smaller package, shrinking our footprint even further. 

Formulations are the responsibility of Farzaneh Rezaei, Ph.D., and her team, and they are crucial to delivering a product to farmers. Creating a living, whole microbial product is a unique process with unique challenges. Her talk explored how fermentation, nutrition, and stability must be in balance with the needs of the microbe, the commercial team, and the farmer. The dynamic problem-solving of her creative team has contributed to a first-of-its-kind product forms the cornerstone of our nutrient management strategy.

SIMB 2019 was an exceptional forum to discover new approaches to the world of industrial microbes and biotechnology, which is why Pivot Bio was proud to be a meeting sponsor. The speakers encompassed a range of leading academic labs and companies with a common vision: that microbes can make our world a better place. With applications such as renewable energy, animal agriculture, and bio-based materials, our fellow speakers shared innovative ideas for how to move the field of microbial biotechnology forward. I was honored to represent Pivot Bio alongside my colleagues Bilge and Farzaneh. Together, our talks described the technology, impact, and challenges in developing the first nitrogen-fixing microbe for cereal crops, Pivot Bio PROVEN™.