Announcing New Partnership with Switch Bioworks to Combat the Food Crisis in Africa

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – January 18, 2023 – Switch Bioworks, a sustainable ag tech startup, today announced a $1.5 million partnership with King Philanthropies to develop customized biofertilizers for smallholder farmers in Africa in order to fight acute food insecurity and support climate-smart agriculture globally.

Switch Bioworks and King Philanthropies launch the project as sky-high fertilizer prices block smallholder farmers in low-income countries from buying essential nutrients to grow crops, endangering their lives and livelihoods. Historically, fertilizer costs have forced farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa to apply seven-fold less fertilizer than their peers around the world, reducing crop yields and food production. This problem has been exacerbated as fertilizer prices have tripled since early 2020, causing these farmers and their communities to face dire food shortages.

Switch believes that it may be able to help by customizing its climate-friendly fertilizer-producing bacteria. Smallholder farmers in low-income countries have a large unmet need for inexpensive fertilizer. This need could be met with new biofertilizer technology—living things like Switch’s bacteria that make fertilizer on-site in the field. Importantly, each field and the bacteria that grow in its soil are different, especially on different continents. However, “Imported biofertilizers are rarely designed for African soils and crops,” explains Niklaus Evitt, a Founding Scientist at Switch Bioworks. “By partnering with smallholder farmers to tailor biofertilizers to their fields and crop varieties, we hope to engineer a product that dramatically improves yields over current technology.”

A team of social impact investors and grantmakers, King Philanthropies is responding to the massive effect of climate change on those in extreme poverty. King Philanthropies is highly enthusiastic about the potential of Switch to address extreme poverty, slow climate change, and decrease dependence on volatile foreign fertilizer supplies. “We are thrilled to support Switch Bioworks and its compelling innovations in sustainable biofertilizer,” says Kim Starkey, President and CEO of King Philanthropies. “This exciting initiative has the potential to be a win-win solution that mitigates food insecurity and boosts livelihoods for smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa, while reducing pollution in the water supply and decarbonizing the future of economic development.”

“With this opportunity for social impact, Switch Bioworks is one step closer to its vision of sustainably feeding a growing world,” says Tim Schnabel, Switch Bioworks Founder and CEO. “We are honored to work with King Philanthropies and smallholder farmer partners to share our technology with the communities that have faced the greatest burden from climate change.”

About Switch Bioworks:

Switch Bioworks, the living fertilizer company, is focused on research and development of microbes that produce sustainable nitrogen fertilizer powered by next-generation synthetic biology. As part of the growing global bioeconomy, Switch Bioworks pledges its mission to improve planet health. Find out more at or follow Switch Bioworks on Twitter and LinkedIn.

About King Philanthropies:

King Philanthropies’ mission is to catalyze solutions at the intersection of climate and livelihoods. King Philanthropies seeks to make a meaningful difference in the lives of the world’s poorest people by multiplying the impact of high-performing leaders and organizations.