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The Grower - Brewing a Fertilizer Solution

From: The Grower (full article here):

By Karen Davidson, Nov 28, 2022

When Jeremy Wind talks about a brew kit, he’s not talking about beer. He’s referring to a biological fertilizer that enhances the plant health of his 750 acres of chipping potatoes near Taber, Alberta.

Called ACF-SR, the product is sourced from AdvancedAg in Raymond, Alberta. The CFIA-approved label says that it’s made from naturally occurring live bacteria that will optimize plant growth, enhance root structure and improve overall plant growth. Five, function-focused bacterial strains arrive in a kit, which are then brewed in on-farm bioreactors for three days. It is applied once or twice, depending on the crop, in-furrow and as a foliar application, over the growing season at a rate of two to four gallons/acre.

The five bacteria used in this mix have a long list of direct and indirect plant growth promotion functions, but most importantly, they are very efficient at using nutrients in the soil and atmosphere that would otherwise be unavailable to the plant and converting it to a plant-available form.

“With fertilizer costs remaining high, we foresee this product as being a good solution for the 2023 growing season,” says Wind. “Over time, we have successfully cut back the use of synthetic input products by up to 20 per cent with the use of ACF.”

He’s convinced enough with the results of the 2022 growing season and previous trials on a variety of different crops that he’s signed up to be dealer for southern Alberta.

Josh Day Chief, owner of AdvancedAg, says that broad-acre farmers have been slow to adopt this technology, but with several years of replicated, third-party trials and word of mouth, the market is starting to expand rapidly across Canada. One of the exciting research projects taking place is with McCain Fertilizer. The company is testing the product in its regenerative agriculture project in New Brunswick in partnership with one of AdvancedAg’s dealers, Velocity Green. The first year of plot trials were a success, and after another two years of trials, AdvancedAg is hoping McCain will recommend this biological product to all of their contracted producers in 2025.

According to its website, McCain Foods defines regenerative agriculture as an ecosystem-based approach that aims to improve farmer resilience, yield, and quality by improving soil health, enhancing biodiversity, and reducing the impact of synthetic inputs. The six principles are: ensure farm resilience, armour soils preferably with living plants, enhance crop and ecosystem diversity, minimize soil disturbance, reduce agro-chemical impact and optimize water use; integrate organic and livestock elements.

While it’s too early for an endorsement from the McCain Regenerative Framework, the trials are indicative of a new trend in potato production practices.

In Alberta, AdvancedAg has boosted production of its signature bacteria blend beyond its Raymond facility to a network of farming clients in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Day Chief says the capacity has grown from 30,000 gallons of bacteria produced in 2018 to more than 45 facilities collectively producing more than one million gallons from British Columbia to New Brunswick.

“When we started this, we could hardly get an audience to talk about our biotechnology and what it can do for the environment and soil ecosystems,” he says. “Many producers have been ok doing what they’ve done for decades. However, there has been a shift, and with the proper research, ROI and improved soil health we are providing to producers, we are starting to see ACF applied to almost any crop you can imagine, with great success.”

According to many market trend reports, the biological market is expected to grow substantially over the next five years. AdvancedAg is part of that upward curve.

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