Robin is a professional agronomist who can fill both the “scientist”and “sales strategist” roles and has over 20 years of experience developing market-leading product offerings in the agribusiness industry. Prior to AgNexus Robin Ross oversaw all US-based R&D programs on row crops, vegetables, turf, and horticulture with Acadian Plant Health. Agnexus is a technical and precision market strategy development company for agri and agritech businesses.
Annalisa is into compellingly communicating the value of unique technologies to a diverse grower community. Prior to co-founding AgNexus Consulting, Annalisa worked for Acadian Plant Health building and managing their speciality crop corporate grower portfolio.
What changes are you seeing around soil health practices in the US?
"I would say that up until the last year, the whole concept of soil health has been very vague", says Robin. "We knew that microbes were important but we didn't know how to manipulate them, which ones are important and how to use them to improve yields and grow the crop in safe and sustainable way".
"Thanks to genetic technologies, we're able to identify every microbe that exists on the rhizosphere of the crop. New machine learning technologies are even able to speak to the function of the microbes."
According to Robin, the next phase in soil health technologies is being able to meet new specific functions such as helping crops pick up nutrients better or ways to use existing nutrients, fighting diseases or managing environmental stresses. Soil health can play in all of that.
Are you seeing farmers that are using biological solutions replace standard farm inputs?
"To replace a unit of fertiliser with a unit of biologicals, the cost difference there is significant for the farmer", says Annalisa, "until there are some noted added benefits and a sustainability practice for the land, rather than just an input to grow a crop, as that shift begins to happen, we'll see more biologicals being used".
Robin also points out that farmers growing crops with higher profit margin, e.g. strawberries, cherries, avocados, are going to be the early adopters of these new biologicals.
What are your favourite new agri technologies?
One of the brands Robin's really excited about, called Bee Vectoring Technologies (BVT), are using a microbial biocontrol agent which controls diseases in tree flower buds. The technology works by attaching a box of the biocontrol agent to a beehive. When bees walk in and out of the hive, they get the agent on their feet and then transfer it to the tree whilst pollinating the flowers, where the disease might normally occur. The agent is harmless to both the bees and the environment.
Annalisa mentions a business that freeze-dries microbes in a wine-box type container with a bladder inside. They set the microbes inside the cap and below in a sterile bladder there is a nutrient broth. When the grower receives the product, they have to push the cap to start the process. The microbes in the cap then fall into the nutrient solution and within 48 hrs the live viable microbe solution is ready to use.
To hear more trends on soil health and plant microbiome technologies, tune in to the full discussion.