Switch Bioworks is a sustainable ag-tech start-up that innovates biofertilizers—natural, low-cost, environmentally-safe alternatives to chemical-based fertilizers. These biofertilizers will help fight acute food insecurity and support climate-smart agriculture globally.
Fertilizers are essential to modern agriculture; without synthetic fertilizers, we would be unable to feed the world’s population. But the high price of fertilizers—which tripled between 2020 and 2023—prevents many smallholder farmers in low-income countries from buying the nutrients they need to grow their crops. This endangers their lives and livelihoods, and those of their families. Moreover, most nitrogen fertilizers—though highly effective—are based on fossil fuels and its production and application harm our climate and planet health. Side effects include the release of nitrous oxide—a greenhouse gas that warms the planet over 250 times more than CO2—and nitrate runoff that leads to waterway contamination and biodiversity collapse.
Switch Bioworks addresses these problems by using cost-effective living microorganisms that grow quickly and then “switch” to fertilizer-producing mode. When placed on the roots of plants, these microbes boost soil fertility more than traditional fertilizer, with significantly lower cost to farmers. The potential impact on crop productivity in Africa, where Switch is currently focused, is especially high because African smallholder farmers use much less fertilizer than their large grower colleagues in the US. By building biofertilizers custom-designed for African farmers, Switch aims to help them gain higher yields at lower costs on a per-acre basis, all while reducing greenhouse gas emissions from chemical fertilizers by up to 90 percent. As the only biofertilizer developer focusing on Africa, Switch Bioworks offers a one-of-a-kind solution that fights acute food insecurity while supporting climate-smart agriculture.
King Philanthropies’ investment in Switch will support its development of sustainable biofertilizers for the African market. This will help feed a growing population while reducing agriculture’s impact on climate and the environment.