Fungi are one of the most diverse organisms on Earth, contributing to many of the features we know and rely on to maintain life on our planet. Fungi live everywhere and are estimated to make up 50% of our agricultural soils, helping to degrade organic matter and assist in soil aggregation. Fungi produce a wide range of bioactive metabolites which can improve plant growth and supply inorganic nutrients to plants.
After studying biology as an undergraduate, I went on to study plant physiology associated with abiotic stress in my Masters and plant molecular pathology in my Ph.D. My academic background provided me to pursue my career path in agriculture, but I did not realise that I would be fascinated by fungi until I joined FA Bio, then FungiAlert. I immediately became curious about the fungi we were handling and loved every step of all tasks I did.
My enthusiasm for fungi continues in my role as the microbe library collection (MLC) curator for FA Bio. As the MLC curator, I am responsible for securely storing our precious fungal samples collected by the patented FA Bio’s technology, the SporSenZ, monitoring and maintaining our fungal collection and database, and providing fungal samples for further research by the R&D team.
Our proprietary SporSenZ tool captures active and dominant pools of microbes from agricultural soils including crop pathogens and beneficial microbes. This powerful tool can harness microbial responses to biotic and abiotic stresses in soils from around the world, aiding our discovery and collection of new superior bioproducts that can minimise the environmental impact of agriculture whilst maximising yields.
By capturing active and dominant microbes directly from agricultural fields, we isolate different species and cultivate them in the right conditions. FA Bio’s intricate laboratory technology and processes allow the isolation of pathogens responsible for diseases whilst also isolating biocontrol microbial candidates that are natural competitors of the diseases. Microbial pathogens are microbes that are capable of producing disease, and currently, many of these diseases are controlled with chemical-based antimicrobial treatments. However, we are very aware of their limitations and impact on agriculture and the environment. For instance, overuse of these antimicrobial treatments may cause more resistant pathogenic strains to evolve, accelerating antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Also, many of these antimicrobial treatments can be toxic, bringing adverse effects to living organisms, including humans.
Therefore it is so important to discover and develop alternative solutions to agrochemicals and the many issues caused by the overuse of preventative fungicide applications in agriculture. As the need to solve the agricultural problems of sustainability and productivity becomes ever more urgent, with climate change and human fungal pathogen resistance becoming impending global issues, I and the team at FA Bio are dedicated to revolutionising sustainable agriculture.
Protecting our planet
To protect our natural ecosystems and sustain life as it is on our planet we turn to the most diverse organism on Earth, fungi, learning from its adaption to different environments and its natural instinct to flourish, even in extreme conditions. Through my experience with fungi, I have learnt to admire its constant ability to survive and thrive through the many challenges put in its way. They come to us with their history evolved over time, diverse and fascinating characteristics, and infinite potential.
As part of FA Bio’s screening process, we identify and isolate microbial strains into laboratory bioassays, facilitating our discovery of microorganisms that were once extremely difficult or even impossible to extract and culture. Our technology also enables the isolation of microbes that interact with crops, facilitating nutrient cycling and promoting plant growth, with the aim of minimising soil degradation, biodiversity destruction and water pollution.
I am proud to be part of a team that is leading the way in discovering superior microorganisms and developing microbial products that can replace or enhance the activity of agrochemical inputs, solving the paramount problems in agriculture of sustainability and food security. By working together with other players in the industry to bring successful sustainable bioproducts to the forefront, implementing the latest available technologies and inventing newer ones to facilitate our discovery, we are increasing the chance of identifying the right active microbes to improve plant and soil health and promoting the discovery of bioproducts, being more successful in a shorter time. This also overlaps with my personal mission to contribute to the world through my scientific ability and enthusiasm.
Using unique processes and problem-solving techniques in the fields and its laboratories, FA Bio is fulfilling its mission to discover robust microbial biofungicides and biofertilisers within the next two years, marking the next step in the evolution of sustainable agriculture.