A Boston-based ag tech start up Indigo Agriculture is eyeing Australia’s cropping seed market..
The company was launched in 2016 by young Scientist Geoffrey von Maltzahn. It supplies seed technology to US growers of cotton and wheat which it claims covers 150,000 hectares and is working on expansion Down Under, including Argentina.
A team from Indigo spent two weeks in Australia meeting with cotton growers from the Riverina, to the Namoi Valley and the Darling Downs, including Indigo chief operating officer Ponsi Trivisvavet.
Like other offerings in the market, Indigo promises unique seed treatment technology to deliver strong yield results. Seed is sold as a stand-alone product, but an enterprise arrangement is also on offer.
“We had very positive support from growers for our technology and we expect to have it sown this season,” Ms Trivisvavet said.
“There was a lot of curiosity in our enterprise model. The feedback from growers was they saw benefit in it and I'm confident we will have uptake in it.”
Under the enterprise arrangement Indigo provides a grower with seed free and a benchmark yield for that crop is agreed. Should the crop fall short, the seed is free. If it hits the mark, Indigo takes a slice of the action.
The company would not divulge details, preferring to keep the specifics of arrangements with growers in house.
Indigo’s coats seeds with microbes that colinise the plant and multiply when the plant germinates, to boost yield and help the plant deal with stresses, like lack of water.
The boffins claim a strategic advantage in Inidigo’s “extensive data set” on the plant microbiome (community of microorganisms), using data analysis to power its genomic research to develop its seed coatings.
Indigo has honed in a particular subset of the microbiome: endophytes. These are beneficial bacterium or fungus that live in a symbiotic relationship with the host plant, and help it deal with diseases, lack of water, heat, nutrient deficiencies, salinity, poor soil.
Plants can transfer endophytes to each other and they can also be passed on to their progeny.
Field trials of the seed treatment for cotton increased yield on average by 5.8 per cent in ideal conditions, and by up to 15 per cent in water and temperature stress environments, according to Indigo.
Indigo has recently established a research partnership with Flinders University in South Australia, aimed at improving global food production.
The research is focused a series of selected plant microbes that can promote more robust plant growth for major grain and pasture samples.