A startup launched this week with a radical plan for helping to feed the earth’s growing population — while also cutting back on farming practices that harm the environment. The company, Indigo, says it plans to replenish the microbiome of crops, adding back in microbes that have been killed over years of heavy use of herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides. It aims to do this by selling a probiotic seed coating for crops like corn, cotton, wheat, and soybeans.
Over the last decade the study of the human microbiome, the symbiotic bacteria and fungus that live in our bodies, has boomed. Scientific research has found that the biota in our guts, our mouths, and our skin can have an enormous impact on our physical and even mental health. Antibiotics, which have saved countless lives, also impact on the health and diversity of our microbiome. This has led people to experiment with new techniques for replenishing the bacteria in their bodies. Scientists actually know more about the microbiome in plants; Indigo is exploiting the new popular interest in friendly microbes to market itself.
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