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A Biotech Revolution Could Fix Farming's Role In Climate Change

Climate change continues to cause massive instability around the globe, from droughts and floods to heat waves and wildfires. Close collaboration within and across sectors is necessary to support climate action, as articulated in this open letter signed by more than 100 CEOs of large multinational organizations. We can't keep doing things the way we always have and expect cleaner air, more nutritious crops, and an abundance of healthy food for all.

In the world of tech and biotech innovation, where I work together with a team of investors who fund promising scientific developments in health and agriculture, we are already beginning to glimpse the horizon of a radically brighter future. Agriculture accounts for 25% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, which is a big reason why we are focused on an alternate path forward for farming.

In farming, crops require nitrogen to reach their genetic potential-the most yield they can put out.

Around 1913, scientists discovered a way to make synthetic nitrogen fertilizer from the atmosphere to maximize crop yields. Manufacturing nitrogen is very energy-intensive, and the run-off from nitrogen fertilizer contributes to air and soil pollution.

What if, for example, plants could draw nitrogen directly from the air to use as fertilizer? In fact, 78% of our air is nitrogen, but atmospheric nitrogen is unusable for plants. Such an approach grants crops the superpower of pulling nitrogen from the air to use as fertilizer instead of requiring synthetic chemicals.

Another platform being developed by our portfolio company SoundAg is poised to replace 30% of global nitrogen fertilizer use by allowing plants to access more nutrients from the existing microbiome in the soil.

About the author: Juergen Eckhardt is senior vice president and head of Leaps by Bayer, the impact-investment unit of Bayer. Read In Detail

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