Ag Biologicals Discovery and Development


Harness the full breadth of microbial biotechnology for agriculture

A successful ag biological is one that delivers unique benefits to crops with consistent high performance and lower cost-in-use. At Ginkgo, we’ve assembled a full stack of R&D capabilities to support our partners developing ag biologicals. Partner with Ginkgo for the technology advantages you need to win the market.

  • Discover natural microbes with agronomic activity using our extensive in-house DNA sequence libraries and computational search tools.

  • Reduce risk in field trials with in planta studies and digital phenotyping.
  • Improve strain performance with random mutagenesis, enhanced with automated selection and screening in ultra-high throughput.

  • Increase production efficiency with process optimization and predictive fermentation tools.

Product Headstarts are Ginkgo’s simple solution for jumpstarting your microbial product portfolio. We offer a range of novel wild-type microbial strains with potential applications ranging from nutrient use efficiency to crop protection.

Headstart packages include characterization data (in silico, in vitro, in planta) to help you leapfrog the early stages of discovery. Combine your strain with Ginkgo’s fermentation and formulation services to enable your next new product.

Solutions for

  • Ag biologicals discovery
  • Mechanism-of-action characterization
  • Product performance optimization
  • Lower COGS and lower cost-in-use
  • Improved manufacturing processes
  • Extended shelf stability
  • Lab-to-field translation testing


Accelerate discovery with our pre-characterized candidate strains

Ag biologicals product discovery doesn’t have to start from scratch. Ginkgo’s Product Headstarts can accelerate you through discovery and into development.

With the acquisition of Bayer’s Ag Biologicals R&D division in 2022, Ginkgo gained a 200,000+ member strain library sourced from diverse soil and plant-associated environments. We have characterized a subset of these strains with in vitro and in planta data, making them a faster and lower-risk way to launch your ag biologicals discovery project.

Headstarts for crop nutrient use efficiency, carbon solutions or crop protection

Nitrogen-fixing microbes for cereal crops

Nitrogen-fixing microbes for cereal crops

We’ve identified more than 1,600 candidate nitrogen-fixing bacterial strains in silico. Our capabilities support further characterizing their activity in vitro or in planta.


Nitrogen-fixing microbes for legumes

Nitrogen-fixing microbes for legumes

Our strain collection includes more than 1,000 wild type Bradyrhizobium strains isolated from soil samples taken from cropping regions across the US. An excellent starting point to identify more competitive and efficient nodulating strains that fix nitrogen for legumes.


Phosphate-solubilizing microbes

Phosphate-solubilizing microbes

We’ve characterized 128 spore-forming bacteria that solubilize phosphorus in vitro. We’ve identified more than 4,000 additional spore-forming strains that have pathways for phosphate solubilization through in silico analysis.


Plant growth regulators

Plant growth regulators

Among our collection of 200,000+ strains, we’ve identified more than 75,000 candidate strains across five genera with a range of known plant growth-promoting modes of action, including phytohormone biosynthesis and abiotic stress tolerance.


Biologicals for carbon sequestration

Biologicals for carbon sequestration

Among our collection of 200,000+ strains, we’ve identified more than 75,000 candidate strains across five genera with a range of known plant growth-promoting and carbon sequestration-related modes of action, including diverse sugar metabolism and phytohormone biosynthesis.




We’ve selected and characterized a novel protein and validated activity in planta against root knot nematode and soybean cyst nematode. Use our end-to-end R&D platform to advance this candidate to commercial readiness, or discover other novel nematicidal biologicals.


Biofungicides for row crops

Biofungicides for row crops

We’ve validated 3 Bacillus strains with activity against soybean sudden death syndrome (SDS) in planta.




We have identified multiple candidate strains with insecticidal efficacy against several agricultural pests in primary discovery screens.


Advance your Headstart toward a product with Ginkgo

  • Further efficacy validation
  • Mechanism of action characterization
  • Formulation development
  • Fermentation process development and scale-up
  • Lab-to-field testing


Increase product efficacy with random mutagenesis and selection in ultra high throughput

When improving strain performance using random mutagenesis, success can be a numbers game. The more variation you can generate and test, the more likely you are to find the strain that takes your ag biological to the next level.

EncapS (Encapsulation and Screening) is Ginkgo’s proprietary automation technology for ultra-high-throughput screening. The EncapS system packages living cells into nanoliter-scale bioreactors, microscopic hydrogel beads that allow us to measure and sort the top performers. The result is the capability to screen 100,000 strains or more in a single run, exceeding the capacity of even conventional automation.

With EncapS, Ginkgo can help you find that needle in a haystack, fast. Strain improvement campaigns can often be done in less than a year – in time for next season’s field trials. (Read more about EncapS)

Selecting for antibiotic activity with co-encapsulation and screening

The Challenge. Antibiotic compounds are produced by some microbial strains and have killing activity against other strains. To identify an improved antibiotic producer strain, it was necessary to measure their effect on nearby target strains.

The Solution. We developed a co-encapsulation assay for the EncapS system that captures both antibiotic producer strains and target strains within the same nanoliter-scale bioreactor. The target strains were labeled with GFP (Green Fluorescent Protein), allowing their growth to be quantitatively tracked. With EncapS, we were able to screen large numbers of antibiotic producer strains, selecting those with high activity for further validation.

Stages of a rapid strain optimization project

  • Develop a nanoliter-scale assay for strain performance
  • Generate strain libraries through random mutagenesis
  • Encapsulate and screen strains for desired activity
  • Characterize performance through secondary screens in vitro.
  • Validate top-performing strains’ activity in planta.


Strain engineering to help you produce active ingredients at scale

Strain engineering unlocks new functionality and new levels of performance unreachable through conventional selection. With novel metabolic capabilities, engineered strains enable the bioproduction of more biologicals for more applications.

Ginkgo’s cell programming platform can support our partners in developing engineered production strains for ag biologicals. Our capabilities span both discovery and optimization, helping you hit the high titers needed for a successful fermentation.

Through 15 years of partnered R&D work on 200+ independent projects, we have experience delivering engineered strains that are ready to scale.


Improve product stability and lower COGS ahead of commercialization

Partner with Ginkgo to maximize your fermentation performance. We can optimize your process with predictive, small-scale fermentation tools, then scale up to 3000 L in our pilot plant facility. As an end-to-end partner for ag biologicals, we can support our partners all the way from discovery to tech transfer to your manufacturing facility.

Ensure your product’s stability, usability, and efficacy with industry-leading formulation expertise. Our team has experience formulating with wild-type strains and established model organisms, or working directly with natural product chemistries.

Formulation support for

  • Liquid suspensions
  • Dry format formulations
  • Foliar and seed treatment formulations
  • Adjuvants to enhance bioactives

Forumulation to Stabilize an Ag Biological

The challenge. A Tier 1 agricultural inputs company discovered a potent biological fungicide, but it generated a viscous fermentation broth that made downstream processing difficult. Furthermore, the product was unstable, losing 90% of activity after 2 months on the shelf.

The solution. Through combinatorial testing of preservatives, antifoams, antifreezes and stabilizers, our formulation team developed a patented process to separate and concentrate the active ingredient – a lipopeptide.

Accelerated testing at 54 °C indicated a significantly stabilized product, predicted to retain activity for up to 2 years at room temperature


Controlled environment testing, fermentation and formulation under the same roof

Field trials are often the most resource-intensive and time-consuming part of ag biologicals R&D. Ginkgo has the expertise and integrated approach our partners need to get field trials right. Our greenhouse, growth chamber, and microplot testing facilities can help to identify the products that are most likely to deliver results in the field.

Ginkgo’s in planta testing facility shares a campus with our pilot plant and formulation development lab. By integrating the complete product testing workflow, we can minimize the need for material transfer processes and shorten development cycles.

Our data science team can support testing through digital phenotyping. The PlantEye system allows us to automate collection of key data that correlates with in-field performance.

Custom Phenospex PlantEye Technology

Overhead design. keeps the floor clear and flexible for growing conditions

Day and night. Captures 3D point clouds under a range of conditions

Dual sensors. Angle-mounted to capture more of plant structure

Multispectral scanner. Overlays plant health data onto 3D plant image

Health and growth. Monitored through NDVL, NPCL, PSRI, greenness, digital biomass, height, leaf area, growth rate

Testing capabilities for both row crops and specialty crops

  • Yield
  • Disease control
  • Insect control
  • Early crop vigor
  • Crop nutrition
  • Root phenotyping


An innovation partner with tech you can’t get anywhere else

Ginkgo Bioworks is a pure platform company. We’re dedicated to helping our partners develop their ag biologicals portfolios rather than seeking to develop our own products in house.

We offer a variety of partnership models to meet your technical needs, whatever your stage of the R&D process. Our partnership philosophy is to align our commercial incentives so that we win when you win.

Our partners gain access to our industry-leading foundry automation infrastructure, our large libraries of partially and extensively characterized genetic assets and our world-class team of experts in ag bio.

Why work with Ginkgo?

  • Take control of your R&D spending by replacing fixed costs with variable costs.
  • Avoid costs and delays associated with building your own infrastructure.
  • Launch faster by starting from pre-characterized Product Headstarts.
  • Gain access to our unique biological assets and industry-leading capabilities.
  • Work with our team of dedicated experts across all stages of discovery and development.

Ginkgo is ready to partner with you to enable the next generation of ag biologicals!

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