Soil Testing Start Up Buys Iowa Lab

10:37AM Mar 06, 2020
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Trace Genomics Exec team: Dan Vradenburg, Dr. Diane Wu, Dr. Poornima Parameswaran
( Trace Genomics )

With a goal of improving preparing to service customers in the Midwest (specifically for corn and soybeans) Trace Genomics has purchased soil processing assets and opened a soil testing lab in Ames Iowa. 

The lab was previously owned by WinField United, and Trace had contracted with the previous owner for testing services in 2019 as it continued to pilot the soil testing technology. The company had dozens of participating farmers who submitted thousands of samples. 

Diane Wu, Trace Genomics co-founder explains while the company first pioneered its biological soil testing with specialty crops, it aims to commercialize its technology in row crops as well. With that intention it became important to have a testing facility closer to those farmer customers. 

“In working with row crop farmers, we realized very quickly their soil testing procedures and needs are completely different than in berries, leafy greens and orchards,” Wu says. “Our goal is to fit into existing soil testing practices. So a farmer can send us their regular soil samples—and we will take a small amount for our biological testing and then ship the original sample for its regular chemical testing.”

Wu says the Ames lab will dramatically reduce shipping costs and time. The facility is more than 11,700 square feet and will be staffed with five to eight employees initially. 

In 2020, the company’s beta testing farmers are located in the corn belt as well as the mid-south. 

From their 2019 beta testing, Wu shares encouraging results in how the Trace Genomics test can alert farmers to disease pressure or nutrient needs. 

“We had a farmer in Iowa who was growing corn-on-corn to reduce an assumed risk of SDS in soybeans, and with our testing, he was able to see the fusarium pressure, and incorporate more soybeans in his rotation,” she explains. 

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