People are both the perpetrators and victims of climate change. Fortunately, there are innovators on the frontlines — fighting to save humanity and our shared planet. One of those key innovators is Dan Grotsky, Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer of Groundwork BioAg, a world leader in bio agriculture. With a background from MIT and Israeli military intelligence, he understands that climate issues are also issues of existential security and survival. Hence, he and his team of top experts in AgriTech at Groundwork BioAg have come up with win-win-win solutions that help prevent climate damage caused by harmful farming practices while enhancing the ability of crops and farmers alike to thrive as growing challenges are shifting due to droughts, floods and changing temperatures.
Thanks to a special climate innovations journalist tour by the Jerusalem Press Club, I got to visit Groundwork BioAg and meet Dan and his team. They — and their solutions — are the real deal. As the United States is getting ready to revisit our farm bill, we can learn from best practices on how to protect our food supply, climate and farmers all at the same time. Thus, I am delighted to bring you a Q & A with Dan.
Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi: What is the specific problem that you/your company is trying to solve?
Dan Grotsky, Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer of Groundwork BioAg: Over the years, agricultural soils have become a net carbon emitter. Land use changes, mostly through modern cultivation methods, have released 785 gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution – comparable to all the combustion of fossil fuels worldwide during the same period! As a result, our croplands are low in organic matter (and the crops less nutritious), and our climate is changing due to the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. Humanity is faced with a need to draw down 20 gigatons of CO2 annually, without compromising on food security.
How do you solve it?
Groundwork BioAg is turning agricultural soils into a net carbon retainer. We produce agricultural inputs called mycorrhizal inoculants, based on fungi that help plants absorb nutrients in the soil. Mycorrhizal fungi form the foundation of a healthy rhizosphere and constitute the main pathway of carbon into the soil. While it is the plants that photosynthesize carbon, it is the mycorrhizae that sequester it permanently in the soil. Groundwork BioAg is the first company to crack the code of cost-effective production of mycorrhizal inoculants, offering farmers a new revenue stream of carbon credits alongside enhanced crop yields, fertilizer savings, and plant resilience. We nourish the ground, while nurturing the planet.
Why is solving this problem important to you? Why should others care?
We are committed to making a significant and positive impact on humanity and the planet. Our solution is actionable, scalable, and immediate. Our proven production process makes highly-concentrated mycorrhizal inoculants affordable and accessible. Our proven ability to scale translates to significant carbon sequestration TODAY. Scalable nature-based solutions for carbon dioxide removal are considered the holy grail of carbon markets, and that is precisely what we are offering.
What proof/studies show that your solution has potential/works?
Our products are field proven, across 4.5M acres (1.8 Mha, 18M dunams) of cropland, in 17 countries. Built on over 30 years of R&D, as well as commercial trials on a wide variety of crops worldwide, our customers are the best testimony to their efficacy. Independent scientific research also regularly confirms our work. Notably, a recent paper published in Cell Press visualized and measured the potential of mycorrhizae to sequester up to 36% of current annual emissions from fossil fuels.
How do you go about doing this?
We efficiently produce cost-effective and highly concentrated mycorrhizal inoculants at scale. Our production process allows for an affordable price point, transforming the mycorrhizal inoculant market from niche to mainstream. Our diverse product formulations are farmer-friendly, tailored to various crops and cultivation techniques, and are produced with the optimal user experience in mind. Our global distribution network enables broad and effective distribution. Our approach to speed and scalability ensures ease of use, affordability, and smooth adoption.
What have been some of your biggest successes?
Our notable achievements include:
– Launching the first mycorrhizal seed treatment on the market
– Registering the first mycorrhizal inoculant products commercially available in Brazil
– Reaching 1M acres in 2021 and expanding to 4.5M acres by 2023
– Pioneering the first cohort of our Rootella Carbon program in 2023. Participating US farmers will be receiving carbon credits based on application of Rootella mycorrhizal inoculants.
With any start up, there are times when you hit brick wall. Can you give us an example of that and how you pivoted to do something that worked better?
In order to penetrate mainstream row crops, we needed to innovate, and create the world’s first mycorrhizal seed treatment. But when we first market-tested our original seed treatment product, we realized it wasn’t well suited to some of the modern seed treatment machines. We immediately focused on ease of use and applicability, connected directly with farmers, and learned more about the ideal seed treatment experience. These efforts ultimately evolved into our two flagship seed treatment products: Rootella X and Rootella L, which boast the highest concentrations of active mycorrhizal propagules on the market. High concentration means farmers need to apply only 6g of product per acre (15 g/ha), a rate that is suitable for any seed treater.
As you move ahead, are you looking for partners? Where and how others can help?
Yes, we always welcome partnerships. Particularly, we seek relationships with distributors, carbon credit buyers, and agribusiness corporations that are transitioning their supply chains to a sustainable direction and are looking to offset or inset GHG emissions or pursue net zero.
What is your advice for other people who are just getting their start on climate issues?
Climate challenges require multidisciplinary solutions, developed by multidisciplinary teams. Don’t hire people who think alike! Rather, build a diverse team with complementary skillsets, to innovate more effectively and solve this grand challenge.
If folks want to know more about your company, how where can they find information or connect?