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Start-Up Spotlight: ​​​​​​​Groundwork BioAg

This start-up is on a mission to make mycorrhizae mainstream.

Groundwork BioAg, a start-up founded in 2014, believes mycorrhiza is the cornerstone on which healthy soils, successful regenerative ag practices, and financial sustainability rest.

For cofounder and CEO Yossi Kofman, mycorrhiza is the queen of the biologicals because it naturally underpins most other helpful bacteria and breaks the bond of phosphorus with the soil. Mycorrhizal fungi are the beneficial microorganisms in the soil that extend plant root systems by 10 to 100 times, enabling better nutrient uptake.

The Groundwork team has developed a product called Rootella, a highly concentrated family of mycorrhizal inoculants that can be applied as a seed treatment or in furrow, as a liquid or dry application.

“The planet and the commercial agriculture industry are facing a looming phosphorus crisis, with phosphorus mines forecasted to begin declining by 2030,” Kofman says. “The pressure of this deadline is already driving increases in the cost of rock phosphate and threatening the same for food prices. In addition, policymakers in Europe and the U.S. have already sanctioned limits on the amount of phosphorus farmers are allowed to apply.”

Mycorrhizae can access, unleash, and mobilize legacy phosphorus already in soil into plant roots, reducing the need for new phosphorus application. Non-mycorrhizal corn plants, for example, absorb only 15% of phosphorus fertilizer, while mycorrhizae-treated plants absorb up to 90% of already-existing phosphorus. Groundwork BioAg’s inoculants reduce the need for chemical fertilization up to 50% while facilitating uptake of existing phosphorus.

By introducing good fungi to the soil, yields can increase; crops’ root surfaces increase, promoting drought resilience; and soil compaction decreases. These results mean farmers can more confidently introduce other regenerative ag practices while improving the environment and the bottom line.

Product Development and Future Goals

Production of mycorrhizae has been a unique challenge. 

“We have to extract propagules in high volume in order to scale up the production,” Kofman explains. “To do this, we have our own equipment integrated with image processing and artificial intelligence to automate the process.”

Scaling up will allow Groundwork BioAg to pursue the goal that Rootella be applied on 10s of millions of acres globally. Unlike some start-up founders, Kofman and his team began their venture with a global mind-set and have built the company to scale accordingly.

Groundwork’s line of Rootella products is currently available to farmers across the key global agriculture markets, including the United States, Brazil, India, Ukraine, Western Europe, Africa, and New Zealand. In 2021, Rootella will be applied to 1 million acres of farmland worldwide.

In the U.S. market, Rootella costs farmers between $7 and $8 per acre. 

In addition to entering new markets and scaling up production, Groundwork BioAg plans to develop new products with mycorrhizae as the foundation. Many other bacteria in the soil work in synergy with mycorrhizae.

“There is no one solution,” Kofman says. “We believe mycorrhizae and other biologicals are required for a holistic approach.”

Founders: Yossi Kofman, Dan Grotsky, Danny Levy

Headquarters: Israel, with sales offices in the United States

Funding: In May of 2021, Groundwork announced an $11 million dollar round of funding from various venture capital sources.

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