We are back with another Fulcrum Global Capital portfolio company this week. The company MicroGen Biotech has produced a microbe that can help encapsulate and precipitate heavy metals in the soil. This process results in a gradual cleaning of soil pollution and reduces the amount of heavy metal uptake by the plant which in turn will reduce the amount of heavy metals consumed by the public. MicroGen recently won the award for the agtech category at Samsung’s Extreme Tech Challenge. Founder Dr. Xuemei Germaine was also recognized as the top female founder of the year.
Heavy metal toxicity in the food chain is a concern being recognized around the world. Forbes published a report from the USDA that described “95% of all baby foods consumed in the United States have heavy metal content levels that are harmful to the development of organs and brains in infants and children, et cetera.”
“We are probably just a couple of years away from not potentially being able to export some of our food ag products to Europe because of that. I think the United States frankly is lagging a bit in this….Food companies are going to have to begin to demand and expect solutions to the products that are going into the foods that they are selling to the consumer.” - Dwayne Cantrell, Fulcrum Global Capital Venture Partner
Dr. Germaine explains how naturally occurring minerals and chronic use of fertilizers and pesticides all contribute to increased levels of heavy metals such as cadmium, arsenic and lead in soils. The crops that are grown in these areas will have increased levels of these metals which are then introduced into the food chain. This is especially a problem for individuals eating a plant based diet and children that are more susceptible to heavy metal toxicities.
“It’s all about how do you block (heavy metals) to make the food safer and also at the same time improve the soil health and that will be environmentally sustainable, economically sustainable, is good for farmers, good for the government and is good for every consumer. It will impact every one of us.” - Dr. Xuemei Germaine
As an added benefit, reducing the heavy metal absorption by the plant will not only benefit the consumer of the plant but also the plant itself. The microbe has been shown to increase the crop yield and has been specifically selected to also serve as a natural bio-fertilizer to the crop. Increased yield and being able to charge a premium will entice farmers to use this product with little risk to their profitability.
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