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  • Writer's pictureKate Stark

Organic answer to drought stress


Engaging old methodology

INNOVATION is at the forefront of Indigo Agriculture’s ethos, with hopes of partnering with Australian growers to sustainably feed the planet.

By harnessing naturally-occurring, in-plant microbes (endophytes), farmers across the Australian wheat belt are already seeing improved returns to their cereal yields.

The technology works inside the plant to boost tolerance to heat stress and drought conditions - an all-too familiar scenario for Australian farmers.

US-based Senior Director of International Operations for Indigo Ag, Ewan Lamont, has spent several months in Australia over the past year to help establish Indigo’s operations.

Working with Sydney-based advisor Mark Allen, Mr Lamont said he is excited to see Indigo Ag introduce world-class technology into the diverse Australian landscape.

“We’re very excited to have bridged the gap between the lab and the field,” Mr Lamont said. “Indigo is leveraging tools and insights gained from research into the human microbiome to help us re-introduce critical microbes to their natural plant hosts to improve crop health.”

Hitting Australian shores more than 12 months ago, field trials have progressed into full-scale commercial production, with cotton covering some 6,000 hectares, from the Darling Downs down to the Victorian border.

The 2017 commercial pilot for Indigo Wheat in Victoria saw an average yield increase of 14 per cent across the paddocks.

“It’s always a pleasure to come out to Australia. Growers here have to be at the top of their game to survive and they’re constantly on the look-out for innovative ideas and new technology,” Mr Lamont said.

“There is a huge interest in the ag-tech space here and we believe this a technology with a great fit for the challenges of the Australian environment.”

Indigo officially launched last year in Australia for wheat and cotton. Other Indigo products include barley, corn, rice, and soybeans with further work being conducted on other grains.

The treatment uses microbes which have evolved alongside plants over millions of years, optimising the plant’s health, productivity and, ultimately, yield.

“Essentially, this is a natural, or biological, way to mitigate plant stress. Modern farming practices have stripped away these naturally-occurring microbes and we’re simply putting them back.”

Indigo’s US lab is also working toward demonstrating the technology’s increased efficiency in water and soil nutrient use.

“Anything we can do to improve quality and yield while reducing input costs is a step in the right direction to increasing farmer profitability, which is our ultimate objective,” Mr Lamont said.

Indigo is looking to partner with wheat and barley growers across the country and share the risk of crop production and technology performance.

“We need to reflect the fact that growers don’t have a comparison for this type of tech with a differentiated business model that benefits both parties.

“If there’s no increase in yield from the Indigo crop, there’s no fee to pay,” Mr. Lamont said.

Indigo-treated crop is planted alongside the untreated seed and crop progress is monitored throughout the season using a suite of cutting-edge agtech tools.

At harvest time, header data from the treated / non-treated paddocks gives a final yield comparison.

“We are happy to share the risk our farmers assume every year, and ultimately to put our money where our mouth is with this new technology.

“There’s no downside for the producer, so you can think of it as insurance against the Australian climate.”

More information about the innovative Indigo Ag microbial technology can be found at

  • Written for Stock Journal, a South Australian publication printed by Fairfax Media.

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