Chairman of the World BioProtection Research Foundation, and Adjunct Professor, Harry Butler Institute, Murdoch University, Australia
Chairman of the World BioProtection Forum, and CEO of Bionema Ltd, UK
Biological agriculture (BioAg), which includes biocontrol (crop protection), biostimulants (crop enhancement), and biofertilisers (crop nutrition), is a fast-growing segment of agriculture, offering safe and sustainable alternatives for the management of pests and diseases, and plant health. The global BioAg market was valued at $12.9 billion in 2022 and is forecast to grow to $24.6 billion by end of 2027, at a CGAR of 13.7% (Markets and Markets, 2022). These solutions harness natural resources and relationships, leading to highly selective and targeted effects. They promote economic productivity and environmental stewardship, satisfying the concept of sustainable development as defined in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
A key category of bio-solutions comprises microbial solutions, which contain selected beneficial parasites, bacteria, fungi or viruses. However, of the estimated one trillion species of microbes on Earth, 99.999% of them are yet to be discovered. These undiscovered microbes hold tremendous promise for various applications, but a lack of coordinated research is hindering our ability to harness their full potential. To maximise the potential of bio-solutions, there is an urgent need to screen, identify, characterise and evaluate a greater proportion of the world’s microbial gene pool.
To address this requirement, the Global Microbial Consortium has been formed, under the WBF Research Foundation (part of the WBF Group). Chaired by Professor Shashi Sharma, esteemed Adjunct Professor at the Harry Butler Institute, Murdoch University, Australia, the Global Microbial Consortium will establish an international network of institutions committed to identifying and developing microbial-based solutions for biocontrol, biostimulants, and biofertilizers. This will promote the discovery and development of novel microbial agents that are effective, safe, and sustainable alternatives to chemicals and other harmful control methods.
The Global Microbial Consortium is underpinned by a vision to create a world in which microbes are widely used for plant health management, and recognised as a key resource for sustainable agriculture. By harnessing the power of microbes, and the expertise of a global network of researchers, it aims to revolutionise the way we manage pests, diseases and plant health, reducing reliance on harmful chemicals and improving the health and well-being of people and the planet.
“With recent advances in technology, such as artificial intelligence and big data analytics, researchers have the ability to conduct high-throughput screening of microbes, while bioinformatics tools and techniques can analyse the genomes of microbes and identify the genes responsible for specific traits,” said Professor Sharma, Chairman of the WBF Research Foundation. “However, unless we have a way to co-ordinate and interpret these global efforts and findings, various opportunities for utilising all this information for bio-solutions could be missed.”
The WBF Research Foundation will operate and manage Global Microbial Consortium. By establishing connections with existing initiatives and institutions on soil microbiomes and microbial-based solutions, the plan is to review and streamline the process for sharing and screening microbial diversity, and to identify potential biocontrol agents, biostimulants and biofertilizers including species and strains of bacteria, fungi, nematodes and viruses. This will involve several stages of testing and evaluation, from discovery to commercialization.
As well as maintaining a database of microbial strains that are deemed to be potential bio-solutions, the Global Microbial Consortium will serve as a hub for sharing information on microbial strains. It will connect researchers and institutions to facilitate international screening and evaluation of microbes, and it will engage with industry experts to establish the commercial potential of identified microbial strains.
Dr Minshad Ansari, Founder and Chairman of the WBF, commented, “The WBF was founded to connect different stakeholders across the bio-solution sector, with the goals of advancing innovation and commercialisation The establishment of the Global Microbial Consortium under the WBF Research Foundation demonstrates the organization’s commitment to advancing sustainable and environmentally responsible biobased solutions for agriculture and environmental remediation.
To find out more about the Global Microbial Consortium, and to join its international network of institutions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.