Billionaires Team Up to Produce a World Saving Bacteria

Photo of author

(— October 5, 2018) — The development of bacteria that can allegedly help reducing the use of nitrogen fertilizers may not sound like a ground breaking topic, but it is precisely the focus of the richest people of today that see it as a concrete way to help save our planet, the Business Insider reports.

In September, a group of billionaires and investors, including Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg, decided to allocate a billion dollars and invest in various energy efficiency startup projects. Investments are part of a fund called Breakthrough Energy Enterprise, which was designed to give companies capital that they can return after 20 years, which should allow scientists and engineers to work on transformative energy technologies.

One of these companies is the Californian “Pivot Bio”, which received 70 million from the billionaire collective to work on genetically modified bacteria.

This company has identified a major problem in agriculture: farmers use large amounts of nitrogen fertilizers, which have a significant impact on environmental pollution. As the plant grows, it needs more and more food, so farmers use fertilizers more and more. Fertilizers emit nitrogen oxide, a type of greenhouse gas that is much stronger than carbon dioxide. This gas remains in the air and in the soil for a long time, and pollutes rivers and streams. It is also toxic to humans because in contact with contaminated water people can get sick and develop liver and kidneys problems.

“Pivot Bio” has discovered a type of bacteria that can reduce the need for the use of dangerous fertilizers. According to company officials, these bacteria exist in nature, but due to the use of fertilizers it has remained inactive.

By genetically modifying these bacteria the company helps them activate in the presence of nitrogen fertilizers. Farmers will be able to spray seeds with bacteria in liquid form.

According to executive director of the company, Karsten Temme, as soon as the seed germinates and forms the first root, the bacteria will catch that root and cover it like a glove. This will allow the bacteria to feed the plant daily, which will eliminate the need for additional fertilizer.  

The owner of several patents involving nitrogen fertilizers and microorganisms the PivotBio’s CEO Karsten said that about 3 to 4 percent of global energy expenditure goes to global fertilizer production and that harmful gases are emitted to the atmosphere during the process of production. He advises farmers to continue to use the same methods they are used to, but emphasizes that adding the genetically altered soil bacteria to their mixture of fertilizers and insecticides, during the first fertilization is crucial for reducing environmental pollution.