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
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.
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.
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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 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.
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Loam Bio Investors
Loam Bio is funded by 9 investors, including
- Lowercarbon Capital
- Horizons Ventures
- Clean Energy Finance Corporation
- Grok Ventures
- Main Sequence Ventures
- Acre Venture Partners
- Thistledown Foundation
- Time Ventures
Loam Bio Founder
Loam Bio CEO
Guy Hudson is CEO.