Microbiome management is a key technology for optimising bioeconomic processes, increasing their productivity and reducing the use of resources. From 2025, the Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering and Bioeconomy e.V. (ATB) will receive additional budget funds for its strategic expansion, which will amount to 2.2 million euros per year when completed. This will enable ATB to expand and consolidate its excellent methodological expertise and infrastructure in microbiome biotechnology.
The targeted influencing of microorganisms in various processes - microbiome management - harbours great potential. Prof Gabriele Berg, Head of the Microbiome Biotechnology Department at the ATB, will in future promote microbiome management in bioeconomic systems even more intensively at the ATB, but also nationally and internationally:
"The methods and techniques in microbiome research are very advanced, but the findings from basic research are still far too rarely consistently translated into technical innovations and value chains. With the approval of the special strategic item by the Joint Science Conference (Gemeinsame Wissenschaftskonferenz – GWK) of the Federal Government and the Heads of Government of the Länder, the ATB has been given the great opportunity to take the analysis of microbiomes to a new level. Through functional analysis, we can understand reactions, interactions and modes of operation of microbiomes to various parameters and thus control them in a targeted manner. Our goal is to develop practical management strategies, microbiome-based products and technologies, all under a comprehensive approach for the health of plants, animals, humans and our environment."
The potential of knowledge-based management of microorganisms, including suitable technical solutions, is huge: in agriculture, this could facilitate diversified crop cultivation, minimise pathogens in animal husbandry and food production and prevent the further spread of antibiotic resistance. It would probably even be possible to repair the damage caused by the systematic overstepping of planetary boundaries. From production in the field, to the utilisation of residues in the food industry, to the material and energetic use of biological residues: With targeted microbiome management, new regional and transregional value chains can be developed, new business areas opened up and jobs created. It also harbours great opportunities for developing countries whose income is dependent on agriculture.
Prof. Barbara Sturm, Scientific Director at ATB, is confident: "The GWK and the state of Brandenburg have recognised that the use of microbiome technologies will drive forward the sustainable bioeconomy. With our work, which in the context of the circular bioeconomy ranges from application-orientated basic research to implementation and practical evaluation, we, i.e. ATB and the state of Brandenburg, can play a pioneering role and create international visibility. Of course, this is only possible with strong partners and a strong network. Our Leibniz Innovation Farm, where we develop and test innovative concepts for the realisation of a sustainable, circular bioeconomy together with research and practice, offers us the opportunity to implement comprehensive microbiome management on a practical scale and to evaluate its effectiveness under field conditions. Microbiome technology is a great opportunity that we know how to exploit," says Prof Sturm.
ATB already combines key competences for the establishment of a sustainable bioeconomy. With the strategic expansion and the associated additional core budget from 2025, it will be able to expand its expertise in agricultural mechatronics, systems process engineering, data science and bioinformatics, technology assessment and system modelling and sensor technology to include the future-oriented microbiome management.
Specifically, ATB plans to establish scientific and science-supporting positions that are necessary for analyses and the operation of the state-of-the-art infrastructure. Furthermore, a new junior research group is to be established, which will conduct application-oriented research into the development of microbiome-based products, such as sustainable fertilisers and pesticides, as well as new antibiotics and active ingredients. Official approval by the GWK is planned for autumn 2024, linked to the decisions for the following financial year.
The Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering and Bioeconomy is a pioneer and a driver of bioeconomy research. Its research creates scientific foundations for the transformation of agricultural, food, industrial and energy systems into a comprehensive biobased circular economy. The focus is on the development and integration of techniques, processes and management strategies, effectively converging technologies to intelligently crosslink highly diverse bioeconomic production systems and to control them in a knowledge-based, adaptive and largely automated manner. ATB conducts research in dialogue with society - motivated by knowledge and inspired by applications. www.atb-potsdam.de