“In hydroponics, there are fewer microbes. With fewer beneficial microbes, the plants are on their own to cope with different stresses. At Ceragen, we want to restore the ecosystem,” says Danielle Rose, CEO at Ceragen.
Ceragen is a Canadian biotechnology company that develops probiotics, or microbial inoculants, to improve the plants’ stress response. The probiotics can be either a single bacterial strain or a group of microbes that can improve plant growth.
“Microbes can do a lot. We can take that technology to produce a positive global impact by producing more food per square meter with the same amount of resources,” explains Danielle.
Danielle and Matthew Rose
Soil versus hydroponic systems
Ceragen produces probiotics in a liquid form, preventing any dripline clogs and making it easier for growers to implement in their growing systems. The probiotic solution is simply added to the irrigation water, then applied to the plants. While plant probiotics have previously been commercialized, Danielle explains that other products that are designed for soil-based systems usually do not persist well in hydroponic systems because they mostly use microbes that have a hard time surviving in hydroponic systems.
In contrast, Ceragen’s products are designed using microbes that survive well in hydroponics and only need to be applied one to two times during the growing season.
“ACCelerate”, the flagship product
The first probiotic product developed by Ceragen is called “ACCelerate”. ACCelerate is formulated with ACC deaminase-producing bacteria which regulate the plant’s stress response. These bacteria reduce leaf yellowing, leaf loss, and stress effects such as blossom end rot, increase resistance to environmental stresses such as high temperatures, improve root growth, and accelerate flowering. ACCelerate was designed specifically for tomato production, with the company’s website reporting that the use of ACCelerate has been shown to increase tomato yields by as much as 20%.
“Specifically, there is a plant hormone called ethylene and when plants are stressed, they produce a large amount of a chemical called ACC, which is converted into an excessive amount of ethylene, causing negative stress effects like leaf yellowing and growth inhibition. ACCelerate regulates this process by breaking down excessive ACC before it can be turned into ethylene,” Danielle explains.
Ceragen is currently developing various microbial inoculants for both greenhouses and vertical farms, and the company is expecting to release a probiotic for lettuce in mid-2022. Ceragen is also working closely with growers to trial different formulations and ensure that the products under development have a major positive impact for growers.
“We’re receiving really encouraging responses from growers. We want to develop probiotics for all kinds of crops,” says Danielle.