Written by Kelly Stincer.
There is growing concern over chemicals on food and the runoff from farms. But farmers rely on chemicals to grow the strongest crops and achieve the biggest yield. Without them, farmers could lose billions of dollars in revenue and there would be a major drop in food production. 3Bar Biologics in Columbus, Ohio, is working to reduce the dependence on agricultural chemicals by offering a biological way to increase the quality and yield of crops. The company is developing products that deliver naturally occurring, beneficial bacteria that are able to help the crop grow from the moment the seed germinates.
“The microbes in our products are like probiotics for plants. Just as our bodies depend on good bacteria for many functions, plants depend on microbes to take in nutrients and fight off disease,” said Bruce Caldwell, CEO of 3Bar Biologics. “With developments in microbiology and genomics, we can separate the good microbes from the bad, and take a biological approach to crop enhancement versus a purely chemical one.”
3Bar Biologics’ first product, Bio-YIELD©, uses a patent-pending delivery system to increase the population of beneficial microbes. The living microbes are stored in the package, separate from the growth solution. Farmers simply press a button on the packaging to release the microbes, which begin multiplying when they come in contact with the growth solution. When the mixed product is applied to seeds, each drop of Bio-YIELD© contains millions of microbes that grow with the plant. The product is certified for use on organic farms and can help increase yield with less overall dependence on farming chemicals.
Since Caldwell started 3Bar Biologics in 2013, it has been honored for its innovation and scientific contributions. The company was named one of 2016’s Best University Startups by the National Council of Entrepreneurial Tech Transfer. With this honor came the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. for the inaugural University Startups Demo Day, where the company presented to potential investors, members of Congress and federal agencies. 3Bar Biologics was also recently named a winner in the R&D 100 Awards from R&D Magazine, which honor the top 100 technological advances of the year. The company won the award in the Green Tech Special Recognition category.
Prior to being recognized as a leader in the agriculture industry, 3Bar Biologics was awarded a Technology Validation and Start-up Fund grant from Ohio Third Frontier, which was used to develop the first prototype of the technology. 3Bar Biologics is housed at Rev1 Ventures, a central Ohio partner of Ohio Third Frontier, where business coaches and entrepreneurial experts are helping the company grow its customer base and move new products forward.
Caldwell says his business has also taken advantage of internship programs and business resources in central Ohio that provide a major competitive advantage while protecting their bottom line as a startup. Ohio farms have also helped the company grow by being the first to test its products. 3Bar Biologics has an ongoing collaboration with the Ohio Soybean Council as they continue to focus on new ways to help crops grow through naturally-occurring microbes.
“Central Ohio is surrounded by farms that are not only potential customers, but partners in innovation,” said Caldwell. “Scientific breakthroughs are changing the agricultural industry, and we are able to put these advancements into practice because of the assistance available in Columbus.”