Tech: Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and other billionaires are betting on a bacteria that could change the way we grow food

Tech: Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and other billionaires are betting on a bacteria that could change the way we grow food

click photo for more information
Tech: Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and other billionaires are betting on a bacteria that could change the way we grow food
An energy startup called Pivot Bio raised $70 million for its genetically modified bacteria, which helps cut down on the use of nitrogen fertilizer — a powerful source of environmental pollution. An energy startup called Pivot Bio raised $70 million for its genetically modified bacteria, which help cut down on the use of nitrogen fertilizer. […]
0
16

Bill Gates

An energy startup called Pivot Bio raised $70 million for its genetically modified bacteria, which helps cut down on the use of nitrogen fertilizer — a powerful source of environmental pollution.

  • An energy startup called Pivot Bio raised $70 million for its genetically modified bacteria, which help cut down on the use of nitrogen fertilizer.
  • In addition to using up energy and polluting rivers and streams, nitrogen fertilizer releases a greenhouse gas that's 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
  • With its latest round of funding, Pivot Bio plans to introduce a product for US corn farmers, before moving on to other crops like wheat and rice.

Nitrogen-fixing bacteria may not sound like the most alluring topic, but it's capturing the attention of the world's most influential billionaires, who see it as a concrete way to help save the planet.

If the technology pans out, this long-dormant bacteria could alter the future of energy and agriculture by reducing environmental pollution, protecting the world's marine ecosystem, lowering production costs for farmers, and conserving energy usage.

In September, a group of billionaire investors, including Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Michael Bloomberg, set aside $1 billion to invest in nine energy startups. The investments are part of a fund called Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), which provides companies with "patient capital," or money that doesn't require a return on investment for up to 20 years. This gives scientists and engineers time to refine their transformative energy technologies.

In its latest round of funding, California-based startup Pivot Bio raised $70 million for its genetically modified bacteria, with the majority of funds coming from BEV.

Farmers are using too much fertilizer

Before Pivot Bio set out to develop a product, it identified a major problem in the agriculture industry: Farmers are using too much fertilizer.

"A plant is kind of like a human. As its grows up, it has growth spurts," said Karsten Temme, the company's co-founder and CEO. "In the middle of the [growing] season, the plant is a teenager — you need to give it nutrients as fast as you can because that's when it's growing the quickest."

But farmers can't access the crops at that time, because the plants have grown too big. Driving a tractor through the field would run them all over. So, they've taken to adding nitrogen fertilizer in the off-season, leaving it exposed for an extended period of time.

That fertilizer then releases nitrous oxide, a type of greenhouse gas that's 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The gas also runs into rivers and streams, eating up the oxygen in the water so that no marine animals can survive. It's also toxic for humans: Coming into contact with the infested water can cause painful rashes, and ingesting it can lead to liver or kidney damage.

Pivot Bio has discovered a bacteria that cuts down on the need for hazardous fertilizer. According to Temme, the bacteria has been hiding in the environment for the last century, but the use of fertilizers has rendered them inactive. "We've rediscovered a lost part of the microbiome," he said.

How the technology works

By genetically modifying the bacteria, Pivot Bio helps to activate them in the presence of nitrogen fertilizer. Farmers can then spray the bacteria in liquid form onto the seed itself.

"As soon as that seed germinates and the first roots form, our microbes can latch on to that root and cover it like a glove," said Temme. This allows the bacteria to provide food to the plant on a daily basis, eliminating the need for excess fertilizer.

But there's one more obstacle: Farmers aren't quite used to the new technology.

To get over this hump, Pivot Bio has proposed a bargain. Farmers can use the same methods they're accustomed to — spraying crops with fertilizers and insecticides from a tank on their tractor — in exchange for adding the genetically modified bacteria to the tank.

It's a win for farmers, who don't have to spend as much money on fertilizer, and an even bigger win for the environment. Temme said that fertilizer production eats up around 3-4% of the world's energy, and the production process alone can release harmful emissions into the atmosphere.

While the challenge is lofty, Pivot Bio has a clear strategy in place. "Our first commitment is to bring a product into the marketplace for US corn farmers," said Temme. The product — which the company is calling "Proven" — stems from both real-life and academic tests, which showed that the bacteria could provide up to a quarter of the nitrogen needed for the plant to grow.

After their first product hits the market, Pivot Bio will move on to other crops like rice and wheat. Together, corn, wheat, and rice consume about half of the world's nitrogen, said Temme.

Though Pivot Bio is not the only company working with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, a vote of confidence from billionaires like Bezos and Gates is bound to help.

Explosion in Crimea college kills 13

click photo for more information
Explosion in Crimea college kills 13
About 50 people are also feared injured in the explosion. The post Explosion in Crimea college kills 13 appeared first on Premium Times Nigeria. Related
0
5

National Judicial Council speaks on corruption allegation against Supreme Court nominee

click photo for more information
National Judicial Council speaks on corruption allegation against Supreme Court nominee
The court says the judge had been probed. The post National Judicial Council speaks on corruption allegation against Supreme Court nominee appeared first on Premium Times Nigeria. Related
0
8

Gunmen kill two mobile policemen, civilian in Kaduna

click photo for more information
Gunmen kill two mobile policemen, civilian in Kaduna
Residents suspect the attackers were armed robbers. The post Gunmen kill two mobile policemen, civilian in Kaduna appeared first on Premium Times Nigeria. Related
0
6

Leo Dasilva replies troll who called him ‘Ceec’s houseboy’

click photo for more information
Leo Dasilva replies troll who called him ‘Ceec’s houseboy’
Leo Dasilva has taken to his instagram to reply a troll who tagged him Ceec’s houseboy. The troll hailed Ceec at first and then decided to troll on Leo, he wrote; “Queen Leo, the house boy of King Ceec, Thumbs up”. The act of mockery did not in anyway make Leo angry as he replied […]
0
6

How Oshiomhole Will Cause Buhari’s Defeat In 2019 – APC Chieftain tells Nigerians

click photo for more information
How Oshiomhole Will Cause Buhari’s Defeat In 2019 – APC Chieftain tells Nigerians
Former APC Presidential Aspirant, Dr. SKC Ogbonnia, has called for the removal of the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Adams Oshiomhole, adding that he could cause the President to lose the 2019 elections. In a statement made available to PoliticsNGR, Ogbonnia said: “The calls for the removal of the national chairman […]
0
6

My encounter with a woman in traffic who sent millions to my mum – Small Doctor shares emotional story

click photo for more information
My encounter with a woman in traffic who sent millions to my mum – Small Doctor shares emotional story
Popular Nigerian singer, Temitope Adekunle, widely known as Small Doctor, has taken to his Instagram page to share an emotional story as he counted his many blessings, while sending big appreciation to a Samaritan woman who touched his life at first meeting. Small Doctor said that it all happened when he embarked on a road […]
0
5

Van Vicker showers wife with loving words on their 15th wedding Anniversary

click photo for more information
Van Vicker showers wife with loving words on their 15th wedding Anniversary
One of the most celebrated Ghanaian actors and movie producer, Van Vicker has taken some time to celebrate his wife on their 15th wedding anniversary. The actor posted a picture of both of them on his Instagram page, and attributed peace in his marriage to “being afraid of his wife.” He stated that fee if […]
0
5

2019 presidency: 40% of cabinet will be women and youths – Atiku

click photo for more information
2019 presidency: 40% of cabinet will be women and youths – Atiku
  Presidential candidate of the Peoples Demoratic Party(PDP), Atiku Abubakar in hope of winning the 2019 presidential election, has said his policy document for Nigeria, is ready. According to the former vice president, while speaking via Twitter on Wednesday, 40 percent of his cabinet will include youths and women as this is the only way to […]
0
6

2019: Persons with Disabilities want greater inclusion in Electoral Process

click photo for more information
2019: Persons with Disabilities want greater inclusion in Electoral Process
Some Persons With Disabilities PWDs in Nigeria have lamented that they would not be able to vote in the 2019 general elections due to their inability to partake in the recently concluded nationwide Continuous Voter Registration CVR. Continue reading 2019: Persons with Disabilities want greater inclusion in Electoral Process at Vanguard News. Related
0
6

See When Wizkid Plans To Drop “Fever” Video

click photo for more information
See When Wizkid Plans To Drop “Fever” Video
Wizkid has announced to all his fans and music lovers worldwide that he would be releasing the video to his new song  “Fever” only when the song “Bia” by  Starboy terri hits 2 million views on Youtube. This was made known by the Starboy when a curious fan asked when “Fever” video would be dropping. […]
3
6

Kuti Lego – “Plenty Money” ft. Slimcase

click photo for more information
Kuti Lego – “Plenty Money” ft. Slimcase
South African based Nigerian act Kuti Lego is about to set fire to the dance floor with his smash hit single titled “Plenty Money” in which he featured Street Otunba; Slimcase. Kuti Lego whose real name is Emmanuel Kuti Mene is an indigene of Warri, in Delta State, Nigeria even though he is currently based […]
0
10

Finance: Saudi Arabia using the 'oil weapon option' could cause prices to soar to $150

click photo for more information
Finance: Saudi Arabia using the 'oil weapon option' could cause prices to soar to $150
While Saudi Arabia isn't likely to follow through with what many saw as a veiled threat to pressure the energy market if the West imposes sanctions against Riyadh, analysts aren't ruling that scenario out. There is increasing evidence Saudi Arabia was behind the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, a US resident who has been a critic […]
0
6
load more posts