Northern Ontario company develops plant growth promoting bacteria
Bioenterprise Canada administered funding supports barley and wheat crop trials ahead of go-to-market
By Lilian Schaer
An innovative northern Ontario start-up has launched trials to test its plant growth-enhancing bacteria in barley and wheat crops. The research, supported in part by the commercialization stream of the Ontario Agri-Food Research Initiative (OAFRI) that is administered by Bioenterprise Canada, will help BioNorth Solutions of Thunder Bay gather the data needed to take their product to market.
The company got its start in 2014, developing remediation products using all-natural microbes from northern Ontario to clean up gas, diesel, and various hydraulic, engine and mixed oils spills in soil and gravel.
Since 2019, the company has been working on developing its PGP – plant growth promoting – line of products that contain bacteria to enhance plant growth, work supported initially by the Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund.
Initial testing results for the plant growth promoting products carried out in conjunction with Collège Boréal look promising, says company president and co-founder Amber Kivisto.
“We are using all-natural, non-altered microbes to make the world a better place; they clean the soil and make it healthier and enhance plant growth,” she says. “Our PGP product is finalized and now we just need more data to enable sales. As we talk to more and more people in agriculture, we are learning that they want data to back it (the claims) up.”
A connection with Bioenterprise Canada, Canada’s Food & Agri-Tech Engine, introduced BioNorth to the OAFRI program, where a successful application has led to funding for crop trials of BioNorth microbes on barley and wheat at the Lakehead University Agriculture Research Station (LUARS) in Thunder Bay.
The outcomes of these trials, now underway, will help BioNorth bring its product to market. According to Kivisto, it’s the OAFRI funding that’s enabling the trials, without which the research wouldn’t be possible.
“We have this terrific opportunity at LUARS to do plots and use our microbes, which we couldn’t do on our own,” Kivisto says. “Our products are sustainable and our whole goal is to keep everything as sustainable as possible, even in using as little packaging as possible.”
BioNorth Solutions was one of more than 20 companies that were approved for OAFRI funding support; the successful recipients were announced earlier this year and all projects must be completed by January 2023.
Through the OAFRI Commercialization Stream, successful applicants receive up to $150,000 in non-repayable acceleration financing to transform innovative agri-food research ideas into leading-edge technologies, services, and new market-ready products.
As Canada’s Food & Agri-Tech Engine, Bioenterprise Canada brings more than 15 years of industry experience and a national and international network of research institutions, academia, mentors and experts, funders and investors, government, and industry partners to help small and medium-sized businesses in the agri-food sector nationwide connect, innovate, and grow.
The BioNorth Solutions project was funded through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a five-year federal-provincial-territorial initiative to encourage innovation, competitiveness and sustainability in Canada’s agriculture industry.