Extending roots by fungal symbiotes: Symborg gives us the key.

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Winds of change are blowing through the spanish agrotechnological landscape. The last decade has been marked as an entrepreneurship hotspot for fresh ideas as a way to find their own place in the sector. Those ideas are related to a biotechnological approach to the current century’s agricultural problems, such as desertification or the search of a model for sustanaible development. However, knowing the current conditions of Spain’s agricultural investment, many companies have directed their efforts in the search for new markets outside the borders.

 

Symborg, biotech company based in Murcia, is one of the prime examples of the fruition of this efforts. As a leader of agricultural research and innovation, their products are based in the activity of nautral microorganisms. The company helps farmers to maximize their yield by the development of enviroment friendly biofertilizers, biopesticides and biostimulants. 2017 was their turning point in their plan of international expanse that led to the creation of subsidiaries in USAMexico, Turkey, China, Chile, Argentina and Brazil and is paving their way to reach biotechnological leadership. Now, probably you are asking yourselves…

How did they manage to start all this? What are this company’s keys to international sucess? What about their plans for the future? From Inspira Biotech, we invite you to find out the answers.

 

The Product. 

The year is 2009. Jesús Fernández and Jesús Juárez, both experienced professionals in the fields of agriculture and research, founded Symborg with an ambitious quest: to find a fungus capable of survive in Murcia’s arid fields. Specifically, they centered their efforts in dry riverbeds with high alkalinity and strong presence of salts.  Undoubtedly, if this theorized microorganism existed, it would have extraordinary characteristics that could help in the farm world. Luckily, they succeeded in their goal: fungus Glomus iranicum var. tenuihyparum, a root’s symbiote, helped plants to survive the hardships of the most extreme conditions. This phenomenon was possible with the help of mycorrhiza: tree-like fungal structures that improve the nutrient exanchange of the plant’s root with the sourroundings. Also, it helps to prevent plant’s hydric strees and improves plant’s tolerance to high concentrations of salts in the medium. Both circumstances are associated with intensive farming, a common practise in the region.

 

External mycelium network and extra-radicular spores (1) and details of the spore wall. Reference: Soledad Olalla (Wikimedia Commons)

 

After patenting this variety of fungus (which became the first mycorrhizal fungus to be patented), there was only one step left, probably the most difficult one: to achieve the transference of the fungus to the plant’s roots. This transference happens naturally on the enviroment by fungal spores, but those spores are too big to run through the irrigation mechanisms and reach the plant. What the solution could be? To use another propagating parts of the fungus  and sieve the products to 80 micra to assure their propagation by any irrigation system.

Their products testings were succesful: the fungus allowed the crops to increase their production and also optimized the action of fertilizers. In the next video you can see the effect of their product MycoUp on the extension of the roots of a strawberry plant of the Fortune variety in comparison with a control.

 

 

The Research.

As we can see in their webpage, one of Symborg’s top priorities is to take advantage of  Research and Development that is, in their own words, a key factor for their success. From their first steps, they have validated the. It’s worth noticing that their expansion through the american market began as a result of a favorable review from the University of California related to the benefits of biostimulants over strawberry crops. Searching for better partners and new potential markets, Symborg highlights their comitement to agricultural events and international scientific conferences. This kind of events granted them a greater reach to the top biotechnological areas of Latin America: Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Chile.  Also, 2017 marked the beginning of their collaboration with australian company ThinkBio as a way to share lines of biotech research and development . You may follow the path traced by Symborg since their foundation by the following timeline:

 

Infographic. Symborg’s historic landmarks in their way to becoming international leaders of the biostimulants, biopesticides and biofertilizers markets.

 

Back in Spain, Symborg has an experimental estate of nearly 30.000 m2 (323000 square feet) next to Murcia city. There, they carry out analysis and tests on crops to develop their products. Their method focuses in directed microbial extractions, microbial selection, establishment of useful crops and efectiveness trials.

 

Symborg’s experimental estate. Reference: Symborg.

 

The People.

Symborg’s goal is to help farmers to maximize the production of their crops by using minimun resources and without risking human, animal or ecological well-being. Their staff, that reached 52 employees on 2017, is mainly populated by higher-studies employees, 10% of them with a PhD. This fact highlights the relevance of the researchers on the growing process of the field. Also, with their new plant on Alhama de Murcia, which proyected building will span four years, Symborg is planning to invest 28 millions of euros and will create at least 45 direct jobs and a hundred of indirect jobs.

 

 

Now that you know the stellar path of Symborg: how may research and development focused companies do you think are also changing our way of approaching sustainable development in the future?

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