This past year, Indigo partnered with more than 70 farmers to plant field trials of the microbial seed treatment Indigo Cotton. In all, the seed treatment was tested across 50,000 acres and 21 test locations in multiple states, and in west Texas (the target geography for the product), 40,000 tested acres showed an average 11% cotton yield increase with the seed treatment. In 2016 Indigo worked primarily with Americot and a regional seed company.
West Texas farmer Shawn Holladay of H2H Farms said their field trial included 40 acres treated and 40 acres untreated, and the treated acres harvested 60 lb. more per acre.
Indigo Cotton is a seed treatment based on naturally occurring, in-plant microbes (endophytes) that has been developed to help increase water use efficiency and improve yields when plants are growing under water stress.
In a news release, Dr. Gregory Sword, of Texas A&M AgriLife Research said, “Indigo has transformed a promising discovery into a product that can perform at scale to deliver substantial yield increases on modern commercial farms. The application of the plant microbiome to agriculture represents a naturally derived solution that works to address today’s environmental stresses, with the potential to dramatically improve long-term agricultural sustainability.”
The company is going to market with a business model where farmers only pay Indigo if they see yield increases.
Indigo is also aiming to condense the timeframe it brings biotech products to market from 10 to 15 years down to three years. The company uses a computational biology platform that identifies beneficial microbes, which are then tested in laboratory assays, greenhouse trials, and field trials to identify the best candidates. Once commercialized, Indigo’s algorithms are refined via feedback from continued testing in diverse conditions and in partnership with growers. Products can be improved each year after they are first commercialized. This approach overcomes the limitations of testing agricultural products in controlled trials only.
David Perry, CEO and Director of Indigo said in a news release, “These results represent another promising step in what we hope will be the next significant innovation in agriculture. One of the advantages of Indigo’s unique partnership model with growers is that we can gather this type of data from commercial fields, which helps us to improve applications of the plant microbiome, in cotton and other crops, in years to come.”
Indigo Wheat is also a seed treatment aiming to improve water use efficiency and yields. Indigo was founded by Flagship VentureLabs, the innovation foundry of Flagship Pioneering, a firm that conceives, creates, resources and develops first-in-category life sciences companies. Indigo is partnering with 12 research institutions and has tested beneficial microbes on more than a dozen different crops across three continents in six growing seasons.