CEDAR CITY — What if farms throughout the state of Utah could boost crop yields — improving soil health in the process — all while conserving water?
This idea might seem too good to be true.
It certainly did for Jeremy Andra, founder and vice president of Cedar City-based Bactelife. Bactelife is an agriculture-focused company that manufactures and distributes “climate-smart” products H2Organix and Micromin for agricultural and commercial use.
The products include advanced microbial and organic nano minerals for agriculture and lawns, as well as for water and soil remediation. Basically, they naturally improve soil health and plant root networks, resulting in healthier, more robust yields and growth while simultaneously reducing the water needed to produce the yields.
“This is just huge for farming,” said Andra, who also sits on the board of directors for World Trade Center Utah. “There’s no chemical base or anything like your traditional fertilizers; these are all natural fertilizers that are healthy.”
After a yearlong trial of the respective products, Andra and the rest of the Bactelife team found that they not only led to a 70% reduction in water but increased crop yields by 20%.
This success led to Bactelife being awarded a $1 million Air and Water Innovation Grant from the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity.
How the products work
Unlike conventional fertilizers and pesticides, which Andra said are petroleum-based and detrimental to soil health, H2Organix and Micromin harness natural bacteria and microbiomes that help both the plants and the soil.
The products are integrated into the existing irrigation system, eliminating the need for additional equipment.
“The reason it’s called Bactelife is … we’re bringing the soil back to life, and two, we’re doing it primarily with bacteria,” Andra said. “Usually when you think of bacteria and fungi, you think of negative things. These are positive, almost like probiotics.”
H2Organix provides a microscopic support system for crops that makes nutrients more available to plants, creates a natural network of water supply and increases plant health, according to Bactelife’s website. Additionally, the “natural network” created by the product allows plants to access resources up to 700 times better than without it.
Micromin is a mixture of 78 nano-sized organic minerals and microbes that are essential for crops and lawns.
“Once your soil is enriched with these organic fertilizer minerals, it will become more vital, passing its life-giving energy into crops and lawns,” the website reads. “As an organic fertilizer, Micromin contains the nutrient components a plant needs to reach its fullest potential and thus pass on these nutrients to the human or animal that consumes it.”
Together, Andra said that these two products create a healthier, deeper and more robust system of plant roots that better absorbs water and nutrients without diminishing soil health, compared to traditional fertilizers and pesticides.
“We’re trying to return things back to nature. A long time ago, somebody said, ‘Let’s invent these fertilizers that plants will thrive on,’ but our plants today are meant to grow really, really fast and look really pretty in grocery stores. But we’re losing a lot of nutrient value, too, because of the way we’re doing things,” Andra said. “We’re not only seeing better quality (and) larger crops but we’re seeing farmers get extra cuts on their crops … so you’re not only getting more for each cut that you do, you’re getting more cuts.”
He added that eventually, Bactelife plans to combine the two products into one, lowering the cost for farmers and giving them both products at once.
How the products are being used
Andra said that for now, Bactelife’s primary focus is getting the products into the hands of farmers in Utah and Idaho. The water saved on one Idaho farm, Andra said, was enough to supply residents of the entire city of St. George with water for three days.
While Bactelife is locally focused (for now), it took a big step in May, taking part in August Mission’s trade mission to Ukraine with the goal of connecting a delegation of over 30 Utahns — including business leaders from a wide array of industries and politicians such as Utah Senate President Stuart Adams — with the ambassador of Ukraine to the U.S., various Ukrainian ministries such as agriculture, technology, defense and even Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“They’re (Ukraine) the breadbasket of all of Europe,” Andra said. “Ukraine plays a big role in our world economy.”
He added that while Ukraine’s soil is healthier than U.S. soil, water supply and quality are the main aspects Bactelife hopes to help in Ukraine, along with soil remediation.
“Our product also cleans out contaminants. We can go into contaminated water and clean it, we can go into oil-spilled waters (and) we can clean it with these bacteria,” Andra said. “They want to try it. They want to get it out there.”
He added that beyond just shipping the product to Ukraine, Bactelife is working to help the country build factories to produce the products to be more self-sustaining when it comes to microbial and bacteria-based fertilizers and pesticides.
Despite its international humanitarian ventures, Bactelife is, first and foremost, dedicated to helping farmers throughout the Beehive State.
“The amount of water we can save on these farms really is enough for our new populations (and) our growth,” Andra said. “Utah’s growing, it’s not going to slow down. … We’ve got to have solutions for water here and we think we have that solution. We really do.