December 07, 2023

Pivot Bio continues march toward nitrogen revolution

LA SALLE, Ill. — Zach Dailey brought a farming revolution to town recently.

“We have had the same mission since the start and we are going to have the same mission all the way throughout. Our mission is to replace synthetic nitrogen fertilizer with biological nitrogen,” said Dailey, a product development agronomist with Pivot Bio.

Pivot Bio is a California-based company founded by Karsten Temme and Alvin Tamsir, out of work they did together as graduate students and lab partners at the University of California.

In mid-2021, the company’s valuation was estimated at nearly $2 billion after the company raised $430 million in venture capital investment.

The company’s first product, PROVEN, the in-furrow microbe product that aimed to replace 25 pounds of synthetic nitrogen per acre, was launched in 2019.

At the Hefty Summer Agronomy Event, Dailey brought the science to the over 100 farmers and guests who attended the meeting at Senica’s Oak Ridge Golf Club in La Salle.

“Pivot Bio is really a company founded and forged on science and using data to solve real-world problems,” Dailey said.

The process to isolate the microbes that produce and fix nitrogen for corn plants includes deep dives into the DNA of those microbes and the use of machine learning to turn the microbes into useable structures.

“Our laboratory has been able to take what they found on a machine-learning basis. By mining data on DNA structures, we can identify, through trillions of biological interactions, those DNA sequences and microbes that we need to actually produce nitrogen. At the laboratory, we can reverse engineer the DNA and make edits to make those biological strains absolute powerhouses to produce nitrogen,” Dailey said.

Dailey said the final part of the process involves farmers, like Mike Denton, of Hefty Seed Company — Princeton, who hosted the agronomy day.

“Our on-farm, pre-commercial and demonstration trials allow us to understand how the products work at the farm gate before we ever go to a commercial launch. We have a 500-level trial with Mr. Denton this year. What is so nice about this is we can turn to him and say, ‘How did it treat, how did it flow through the planter, how did it go through the tender?’ All these things we can answer on a small scale on these pre-commercial trials,” Dailey said.

The event also was part of the soft launch of PROVEN 40 and PROVEN 40 On-Seed. Pivot Bio’s PROVEN 40 OS is the first seed treatment for the company. The PROVEN 40 product aims to replace 40 pounds of synthetic nitrogen per acre in corn crops.

“Our mission is to continue to stay in cereal crops and row crops. And while, yes, we are actively working in emerging crops and emerging geographies, our main goal is cereal crops in the Midwest,” Dailey said.

The company and its researchers and farmer-cooperators don’t intend to stop with 40 pounds of nitrogen per acre either.

“We are dedicated to making the next generation of PROVEN 40 and taking the PROVEN 40 and making it a 50 and a 60 and then, someday, an 80 and a 100,” Dailey said.

Jeannine Otto

Jeannine Otto

Field Editor