30 Most Innovative Companies 2019


Pivot Bio: Changing the World with Powerful Ideas

Agriculture has become highly dependent on synthetic nitrogen fertilizers for quite a few years now. Adverse effects of this dependence is having serious environmental consequences now. Further, it has been observed that the soil microbes have lost their natural ability to produce nitrogen which nourishes the food crops. Pivot Bio with its innovative new solutions and understanding is pioneering advances in crop nutrition.

Nitrogen- Important for life

Nitrogen is the largest constituent of Earth’s atmosphere and it is a naturally occurring essential element in every organism. But in gas form, nitrogen is unusable by plants. And hence the conversion process makes nitrogen available to the plants through the soil. But naturally, nitrogen depletion comes about very easily. This has raised our dependence on fertilizers in the recent past.

Today, around half of the world’s food production is dependent on fertilizers today. The synthetic nitrogen fertilizer is an absolute requisite for modern agriculture. Without fertilizer, the world’s food production would be cut by 48%.  But it has been found that the use of synthetic fertilizer may be causing problems that were previously unrealized.

Synthetic nitrogen fertilizer- a worry

While fertilizers provide the necessary nitrogen to the plants for a good produce, after decades of its usage the natural fixation process of microbes are now affected. This has impacted the effectiveness of the microbes. Some portion of the chemical fertilizers decomposes into nitrous oxide and becomes a greenhouse gas that is 300 times more potent than CO2. Moreover, synthetic nitrogen fertilizers are causing about $150 billion in negative economic, environmental, and human health impacts.

In the meanwhile, the world’s hunger grows year by year as the population rises. People need food and cereal crops which provide half of the world’s nutrition. And cereal crops need nitrogen. But how do we meet the demands of the farmers without letting the fertilizers further damage the environment?

Pivot Bio’s alternative to the rescue

Quite a few parameters impact a farmers’ desire to grow abundant crops including factors like weather, markets, and international trade. Karsten Temme, the CEO and Co-Founder of Pivot Bio, as an undergrad at the University of Iowa became interested in tackling these challenges faced by the agricultural community. He discovered that re-inventing fertilizers could reduce the financial risk for the farmer, improve yield and also contribute towards reducing the impact of fertilizer pollution.

When he met Alvin Tamsir at the University of California during his Ph.D., the duo started studying how to wake the microbiomes out of hibernation. They developed a powerful technology called computationally-guided microbe remodeling which could do this. The duo founded Pivot Bio to use this technology to create products which could transform agriculture.

Series B in 2018

Pivot Bio raised $70 million in its Series B funding round which happened in 2018. The round was led by Breakthrough Ventures and Singapore-based Temasek also participated. The new funding has supported the expanded research and development for the company’s second-generation products. It could also help the company introduce its products to newer markets beyond the U.S.

The fertilizer industry has remained unchanged for more than 100 years. With Pivot Bio, finally, humanity has a better alternative with stronger yields, better economics and nitrogen!

Meet the pioneer

Karsten Temme, CEO and Co-Founder

His fascination with the potential of unseen microbes of this world and his desire to create a meaningful change in this world became Pivot Bio when he partnered with his colleague Alvin Tamsir.

He graduated from The University of Iowa with BS and MS in Biomedical Engineering. He acquired his Ph.D in Bioengineering from the University of California- Berkeley.

The industry has been working to develop self-fertilizing cereal crops like corn, wheat and rice for nearly 50 years. For the first time, Pivot Bio is making this possible.

How Pivot Bio works

Pivot Bio’s first generation microbial product begins its work when it is applied to a furrow. When a seed germinates and its roots grow out, the product adheres to the epidermis of the roots. These microbes grow as the plant grows and delivers the plant with nitrogen daily throughout its growth cycle. This means that the nitrogen is transferred directly to the plant. Thus, none of the nutrients are degraded due to volatilization and leaching which is a common occurrence in case of fertilizers. The results are astounding as crop yield becomes more predictable and more productive at the same time.

Pivot Bio is set to make nitrogen fixation as natural as breathing for microbes. The microbes inhale nitrogen gas from the atmosphere and release ammonia to plants.

The planet needs a clean alternative to synthetic nitrogen fertilizer now. Pivot Bio has the solution.

All of us at Pivot Bio are focused on creating new solutions that makes farming more productive and farms more sustainable, so farmers can pass down their land to future generations.

We are inspired by the farmers we serve.