A Microbe’s Journey from Lab to Field

    April 28, 2023

    At Indigo, we're harnessing the power of nature to make plants more resilient against environmental stressors with biotrinsic®, a series of seed treatments created from microbes. We're often asked how we develop these microbes into seed treatments that can be distributed on an industrial scale. It presents serious challenges, like how to keep the microbes alive through the production process so that they can interact with seeds, but we've developed a system that can keep these microbes healthy on their journey from lab to field.

    Developing Microbes at Commercial Scale

    After our scientists identify a microbe as a strong candidate for a seed treatment, our product developers figure out how to grow the microbes industrially at a large scale and in high concentrations, and then how to keep the microbe stable so that it can survive the journey from being packaged to delivered to retailers and farmers, to being applied to the seed and planted in the field, often using large-scale farm equipment.

    Step 1: Fermentation - To achieve the high volumes and concentrations needed to produce a seed treatment, we ferment microbes in much the same way that beer is brewed industrially. Our product developers monitor the microbes very closely and adjust the nutrients and process conditions through fermentation to ensure that the microbes are grown to an optimal state.

    Step 2: Stabilization - Some microbes come out of the fermentation process needing more assistance to survive upcoming phases in their journey. They may be treated with various additives or they may go through further processes to be in an ideal state for packaging, shipping, application, and planting.

    Step 3: Formulation Development - At this phase, the microbes are being prepared for proper application. They may be introduced to other additives to develop certain flow characteristics or diluted to achieve the proper concentration for dosing on the seed. Indigo seed treatments come in one of three forms: water dispersion, wettable powder, or flowable powder.

    Step 4: Commercial Scaling
    - Once the microbes have been formed for proper application, they are scaled up for commercial manufacturing in an industrial facility to produce large quantities, followed by a rigorous quality assurance check, and then they're packaged for shipment through the supply chain to a local retailer or directly to a farmer.

    How We Test biotrinsic® Products

    As Indigo has developed these products for seed treatment, they go through rigorous lab testing but they also go through large-scale pilot trials in fields. We treat seed in a variety of manners to ensure that:

    1) The treatment uniformly covers the seed at the proper dose.

    2) The treated seed has the right physical characteristics to work effectively, including flowability, plantability of the seed once treated, and viability so that microbe survives the entire process.

    Making the Journey from Factory to Field

    To keep microbes alive through the process of packaging and shipping they have to be dormanta sleepy state where they're not actively growing in their packaging and only activate once they reach the soil where they have access to nutrients and water.

    Each of our seed treatments come in one of three formats, which depends on the type of microbe, and the type of market they're sold in and the way they need to be used:

    1) Water dispersion - This is a typical liquid seed treatment applied using common seed treatment equipment. The microbes that are supplied as water dispersants tend to be ones that are tolerant of moisture whereas other microbes may not be.

    2) Wettable powder - Some microbes are not as stable in liquid formats for long periods, so we turn them into a product that is packaged and shipped as a powder and then dispersed in liquid at the time of seed treatment, which can be applied using common seed treatment equipment.

    3) Flowable powder - This format is amenable for microbes that tend to be more sensitive to moisture and other storage conditions. To keep them alive until the time of planting, we keep them dry through the lifecycle of packaging to seed treatment and apply it as a powder over-treatment using manual methods or equipment designed for powder applications. directly to the seed without liquid.

    Depending on the type of microbe, each of these product types have different storage requirements and different application methods, but most can be applied via standard seed treatment equipment and methods.

    By honing this rigorous process, we've developed products that can deliver a variety of characteristics and benefits to crops to keep them resilient through all types of environmental stressors.

    Curious to learn more about biotrinsic® products and test them for yourself? Start here.