Loam Bio ($110M to use microbes to capture CO2 from the air and store it in the soil)

Loam Bio, a biotech company founded in Australia in 2020, has developed a biotechnology to address climate change through carbon farming. Carbon farming is an agricultural practice that aims to enhance plants’ natural capacity to capture and store carbon dioxide (CO₂) from the atmosphere in the form of stable organic matter in the soil, thereby mitigating climate change and promoting soil health. Loam Bio’s fungal inoculation biotechnology can help farmers achieve carbon farming.

Challenges: carbon emissions and carbon farming

Carbon emissions

Since the early 1900s, carbon dioxide (CO₂) levels in the atmosphere have increased by 50% due to human activities. When fossil fuels (such as coal, oil, and natural gas) are burned for energy production, transportation, and industrial processes, CO₂ is released into the atmosphere. This excess CO₂ acts as a greenhouse gas, trapping heat and causing the air and ocean temperatures to rise. CO₂ emissions play a crucial role in driving climate change.

This warming effect has caused the global average temperature to rise by about 1.1 ºC since the pre-industrial period. This has led to rising in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, melting of polar ice caps and glaciers and rising sea levels, shifts in species ranges and increased risk of species extinction, agriculture and food security,  and ocean acidification.

To mitigate these impacts, the Paris Agreement aims to limit global warming to well below 2 ºC above pre-industrial levels. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that a “carbon budget” of about 500 GtCO₂, which corresponds to about ten years at current emission rates, provides a 66% chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 ºC.

Carbon farming

Through photosynthesis, plants extract CO₂ from the atmosphere as part of the carbon life cycle. This carbon is converted into sugars that nourish plants and soil microorganisms. Plant and microbial decomposition results in the accumulation of soil organic carbon (SOC). SOC contributes significantly to soil health, agriculture, climate change mitigation, and food solutions.

However, intensive cultivation practices have reduced oil organic carbon levels, making land unsuitable for profitable crop production and CO₂ emissions.

Carbon farming refers to agricultural practices that aim to increase SOC, enhance soil health, and promote sustainable agriculture. Carbon farming plays a significant role in addressing climate change by sequestering CO₂ from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil and plants. This process helps to offset greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), soil carbon sequestration has the potential to remove between 2 and 5 gigatons of CO₂ equivalent per year, making it a crucial component of global climate change mitigation efforts.

Loam Bio Technology

Loam Bio (Loam) has developed a biotechnology that inoculates the soil and/or a plant growing in the soil with an effective amount of Clonostachys fungi. The inoculation of fungi is accomplished through seed-coating or other suitable means. The fungal species are non-pathogenic to crop plants and are resistant to conventional fungicides. As fungi and plants grow together, they sequester and fix carbon from atmospheric CO₂ and convert this carbon to stable complex polysaccharides, resulting in the long-term storage of sequestered atmospheric carbon in the soil in a stable form and an increase in SOC.

Loam Bio inoculation

Loam’s fungal inoculation technology is particularly useful to increase soil carbon levels when the soil organic carbon (SOC) level falls below a certain threshold.

The fungal inoculant comprises fungi, suitable solid or liquid carriers, and/or adhesive agents. Suitable solid carriers include cellulose, starch, and mineral earths (e.g., calcium phosphate, calk, clay, diatomaceous earth, dolomite, kaolin, silicates, silica gels, talc, etc). Suitable liquid carriers include water or any other liquid solvents which are not toxic to the fungus or the plant.

The inoculant is prepared by mixing fungi with customary adjuvants, such as customary extenders and solvents or diluents, colorants, wetters, dispersants, emulsifiers, antifoams, preservatives, secondary thickeners, stickers, and also water.

The plant is inoculated with fungal species using any of the following methods:

  • Seed coating: the application of fungi to plant seeds prior to planting;
  • Foliar spray: applying fungal species to seedlings of the plant; and
  • Deploying fungal species to cultivated soil in such a way that the fungus is retained by the soil even in the absence of crops for periods of time.

How does soil organic carbon increase?

Without inoculation with fungi, the plant grows and absorbs atmospheric CO₂. When a plant dies or is harvested, carbon is released back into the atmosphere.

With fungal inoculation, as the plant and fungi grow together, they sequester and fix carbon from atmospheric CO₂ and convert this carbon to stable complex polysaccharides, resulting in the stable long-term storage of atmospheric carbon sequestered in the soil.

The sequestered and fixed carbon is also converted and stored as a stable carbon source by fungi as compounds such as melanin, chitin, lignin, suberin, and carotenoid, or the fungi may exude these compounds to increase the stable carbon in the soil.

The deployed fungal endophyte converts simple polysaccharide exudate from a host plant into complex polysaccharides for carbon storage in the soil or within the fungi itself.

Last but not least, the stability of organic carbon in soil is enhanced by more stable soil aggregates.

Loam Bio Patent

  • AU2023202250A1 Methods for carbon capture and increasing yield of plants
  • WO2022174313A1 Methods for carbon capture and increasing yield of crop plants
  • WO2023009899A8 Methods for the reduction of methane production in ruminants

Loam Bio Products

Carbon offset credit market

The market value of carbon offset credits varies widely. In current carbon markets, the price of one carbon credit can range from a few cents per metric ton of CO₂ emissions to $15/mtCO₂e (metric tons of CO₂ equivalent) or even $20/mtCO₂e. However, the voluntary carbon offset market, which was worth about $2 billion in 2021, is projected to grow to $10-40 billion by 2030, transacting 0.5-1.5 billion tons of CO₂ equivalent, as opposed to the current 500 million tons. The total value of carbon credits produced and sold to help companies and individuals meet their de-carbonization goals could approach $1 trillion as soon as 2037.

Loam Bio Technology Applications

Carbon sequestration

Loam Bio’s primary technology, CarbonBuilder, uses endophytic fungi to capture carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil. This microbial carbon capture technology significantly increases the volume and stability of soil carbon in cropping systems, turning croplands into carbon sinks.

Crop yield enhancement

CarbonBuilder is also a seed treatment designed to improve grain yield. The technology works by coating seeds with the CarbonBuilder fungal inoculum before sowing, which enhances the plants’ ability to store carbon in the soil and improves plant yields.

Soil health improvement

The CarbonBuilder technology increases the fertility and productivity of the soil by targeting hard-to-decompose carbon, known as recalcitrant carbon. This process also enhances the resilience of the soil against drought, disease, and high temperatures.

Carbon farming

Loam Bio’s technology enables farmers to participate in carbon farming practices without significantly disrupting their existing operations. The company assists growers with registration and administration, land management strategies, and measurement and verification to maximize the benefits of increased soil carbon.

Loam Bio products

Loam Bio provides two primary products that help farmers build soil carbon in the soil, increase productivity, and remove carbon from the atmosphere:

  • CarbonBuilder seed inoculum

The CarbonBuilder seed inoculum from Loam Bio functions by coating seeds with a microbial inoculum prior to sowing. Once sown, microbes and plants collaborate to safely store carbon in soil by binding it to microaggregates of soil. This process contributes to climate change mitigation by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing soil health.

  • SecondCrop program

Loam Bio made the SecondCrop program, which is a carbon farming project. The program takes a carbon project approach that is friendly to farmers. This makes it easier for farmers to do carbon farming and take care of the environment.

Loam Bio’s SecondCrop program combines microbial technologies with carbon projects that are geared toward farmers. It gives farmers the chance to improve their sustainability practices and help stop climate change by adding carbon to the soil and cutting their emissions.

Loam Bio can help farmers who take part in the SecondCrop program by giving them advice and support. This includes having access to new biotechnologies, like the CarbonBuilder seed inoculum, which helps plants store more carbon in the soil than they could on their own.

Loam Bio Funding

Loam Bio has raised a total of A$155M in funding over 3 rounds, including

Their latest funding was raised on Feb 13, 2023 from a Series B round.

The funding types of Loam Bio.
The funding types of Loam Bio.
The cumulative raised funding of Loam Bio.
The cumulative raised funding of Loam Bio.

Loam Bio Investors

Loam Bio is funded by 9 investors, including

Grok Ventures and Horizons Ventures are the most recent investors.

The funding rounds by investors of Loam Bio.
The funding rounds by investors of Loam Bio.

Loam Bio Founder

Guy Hudson, Frank Oly, Tegan Nock, and Guy Webb are Co-Founder.

Loam Bio CEO

Guy Hudson is CEO.

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