Groundwork BioAg, a start-up founded in 2014, believes mycorrhiza is the cornerstone on which healthy soils, successful regenerative farming practices and financial sustainability are built.
For co-founder and CEO Yossi Kofman, mycorrhizae is the queen of organics because it naturally underpins most other beneficial bacteria and breaks the phosphorus bond with the soil. Mycorrhizal fungi are beneficial soil microorganisms that extend plant root systems 10 to 100 times, allowing better absorption of nutrients.
The Groundwork team has developed a product called Rootella, a highly concentrated family of mycorrhizal inoculants that can be applied as a seed or furrow treatment, as a liquid or dry application.
âThe planet and the commercial agriculture industry face a looming phosphorus crisis, with phosphorus mines set to start declining by 2030,â Kofman said. âThe pressure of this deadline is already causing increases in the cost of rock phosphate and threatens food prices as well. In addition, policymakers in Europe and the United States have already sanctioned limits on the amount of phosphorus that farmers are allowed to apply. ”
Mycorrhizae can access, release and mobilize legacy phosphorus already present in the soil in plant roots, reducing the need for re-application of phosphorus. Non-mycorrhizal corn plants, for example, absorb only 15% of the phosphorus fertilizer, while plants treated with mycorrhizae absorb up to 90% of the existing phosphorus. Groundwork BioAg inoculants reduce the need for chemical fertilization by up to 50% while facilitating the absorption of existing phosphorus.
By introducing good fungi into the soil, yields can increase; the root surfaces of crops increase, promoting resilience to drought; and soil compaction decreases. These results mean that farmers can confidently introduce other regenerative farming practices while improving the environment and results.
Product development and future goals
The production of mycorrhizae has been a unique challenge.
âWe need to extract propagules in large volumes in order to increase production,â Kofman explains. âTo do this, we have our own equipment integrated with image processing and artificial intelligence to automate the process. ”
The scale-up will allow Groundwork BioAg to pursue the goal of applying Rootella to tens of millions of acres worldwide. Unlike some start-up founders, Kofman and his team started their business with a global mindset and built the business to grow accordingly.
Groundwork’s Rootella product line is currently available to farmers in major global agricultural markets including the United States, Brazil, India, Ukraine, Western Europe, Africa and New Zealand. In 2021, Rootella will be applied to 1 million acres of farmland worldwide.
In the US market, Rootella costs farmers between $ 7 and $ 8 an acre.
In addition to entering new markets and increasing production, Groundwork BioAg plans to develop new products with mycorrhizae as a basis. Many other bacteria present in the soil act in synergy with mycorrhizae.
âThere is no one-size-fits-all solution,â says Kofman. “We believe that mycorrhizae and other biologics are necessary for a holistic approach.”
Founders: Yossi Kofman, Dan Grotsky, Danny Levy
Headquarter: Israel, with sales offices in the United States
Funding: In May 2021, Groundwork announced an $ 11 million round of funding from various sources of venture capital.