Fixing the Soil to Feed the Planet Despite the Ravages of Climate Change

A Disruptive, Sustainable and Smart Use of Fertilizer To Reverse Global Malnutrition

We have reached the breaking point when it comes to the condition of our farmland soil around the world. As a consequence of climate change and current agriculture practices, our soil has become dangerously depleted, and billions of people throughout the world suffer from malnutrition – or are at risk. And without adopting smart and sensible changes quickly, the news will soon get drastically worse. Absent new, smart and bold farming methods to regenerate soil, we will be ill-equipped to meet the challenge of feeding 10 billion people by 2050. The risks are further heightened because of the searing and uncertain damage that climate change may inflict. Indeed, the global soil crisis has led the World Economic Forum to identify smart fertilizers that regenerate soil and grow healthier food as one of the top ten emerging technologies of 2019.

Crops farmed in depleted or alkaline soils lack essential micronutrients, vitamins, and minerals that are vital to development, disease prevention, and wellbeing. Human beings do not produce essential micronutrients including iron, zinc, calcium, manganese, copper, and boron; they must be obtained through diet. Deficiencies in these micronutrients can have devastating consequences on human health, including poor physical and mental development in children, vulnerability to disease, mental retardation, and blindness. At least half of children worldwide ages 6 months to 5 years suffer from one or more micronutrient deficiencies and, globally, more than 2 billion people are affected.


Micronutrient deficiency is especially problematic in alkaline soils prevalent in the United States, India, China, and Africa. Climate change makes the deficiency problem even worse. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization projects that for each 1-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures 3 to 10 percent of average global cereal yields will be cut.

Conventional synthetic fertilizers have been unable to fix the problem of depleted soil and therefore have been a failure in reducing micronutrient deficiency and malnutrition. The current fertilizers are particularly ineffective when soil pH is alkaline (above pH 7.5). The tragic result: low productivity and the failure of less nutritionally dense crops to curtail growing global malnutrition.

Moreover, there are even greater problems with conventional fertilizers than being ineffective. Traditional fertilizers such as EDTA chelates, which were developed in the 1950s to improve the absorption of micronutrients in crops, are expensive, often ineffective and even toxic if not applied in the correct dosages. They also leach from the soil and are a persistent pollutant of surface and groundwater.  Conventional fertilizers are generally considered less effective in alkaline soil, which characterizes the farmland on which the bulk of humanity relies today.


New, plant-based fertilizers that produce more nutrient-dense food while simultaneously regenerating the soil constitute a pioneering technology in addressing this growing crisis of global malnutrition.  Organic, plant-based fertilizers work much differently from traditional time-released fertilizers. Traditional industrial fertilizers are water soluble, so crops can only absorb their micronutrients until water washes them away. This results in inefficient uptake (absorption) by the plant, expensive costs for the farmers who must regularly reapply the fertilizer, and a significant pollution hazard.  By contrast, organic carbon or plant-based fertilizers are not water-soluble. They cannot be washed away by water; rather, they are  retained in the soil, producing nutrients when crops need them and regenerating the soil for years.

One of the first organic plant-based fertilizers ever developed is Soileos, a new “smart fertilizer” that provides nutrients by biological demand. Through this method, plant roots take in the appropriate amount of nutrients based on their needs at each stage of their growth cycle. This is a novel and disruptive approach and an alternative to conventional, water soluble fertilizers, which nourish plants only until they are washed away. As a result, nutrient uptake with Soileos is extremely efficient. New data from field and greenhouse trials demonstrate that plants fertilized with Soileos can grow crops with up to ten times the nutrient density of those grown with traditional fertilizers.  In addition, the product works effectively for long periods of time, even in alkaline soils up to pH 10. The Soileos approach to micronutrient delivery promises both higher yields at lower costs and a reasonable route to addressing global soil degradation crisis. Moreover, plant-based fertilizers improve the soil by leaving organic carbon in the soil, producing tangible benefits not just for a single harvest, but for generations to come.

Solving the global micronutrient crisis means finding a smart alternative to conventional synthetic fertilizers in areas with high-alkaline soils throughout the world. An organic plant-based smart fertilizer like Soileos offers a promising path to productivity for farmers with hard-to-farm, low-yielding alkaline soil while also producing more nutrient-rich food – for all of us.

Michael Riedijk

CEO of Lucent Biosciences

Lucent Biosciences, Inc., is on a mission to address climate impact on global food security and nutrition by developing solutions that regenerate the land and the oceans while capturing carbon to reverse climate change. Soileos, their first sustainable smart fertilizer for agriculture was developed as a response to the global environmental crisis of soil degradation. Lucent also has a revolutionary sustainable livestock food supplement in the development pipeline, as well as Oceaneos, a patent-pending approach to regenerating marine ecosystems to capture carbon and make global fisheries more productive and sustainable.