By Greentech Lead Team: Arcadia
Biosciences, a green agricultural technology company, has received a 5-year, $4.5
million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to
develop salt-tolerant rice.
The company will also utilize the funds to
measure greenhouse gas emissions from conventional rice fields in Bangladesh
and Nitrogen Use Efficient (NUE) crops in Indonesia. Arcadia’s activities will
contribute to Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food
“USAID projects have had a measurable
impact in the development of crops that improve food security in developing
countries. Under this latest grant, our work in rice will further the USAID
mission and can help growers in Bangladesh produce more food on the same amount
of land,” said Eric Rey, president and CEO of Arcadia.
Around $15-20 billion in global crop yields
are lost annually due to the effects of salt-impacted soil and water.
In Bangladesh, salinity reduces crop productivity
on an estimated 1 million hectares along the country’s coastal areas, where
salt-water intrusion is a growing problem. An estimated 53 percent of the
coastal areas are affected by salinity.
Average rice yields in salt-impacted areas
of Bangladesh are estimated at between 2.5 and 3 tons per hectare, compared to
4 tons per hectare in more favorable soils.
Rice accounts for nearly 18 percent of
Bangladesh’s GDP and providing about 70 percent of an average citizen’s total
calories. Rice growing areas total about 10 million hectares and account for 75
percent of the country’s total agricultural land, and 93 percent of its cereal
crop hectares. Development of salt-tolerant rice varieties for the region can
have a significant impact on the country’s economy and food security.
As part of the grant, Arcadia will also
conduct NUE Rice field trials and measure greenhouse gas emissions in Indonesia
and will gather baseline greenhouse gas emission measurements from conventional
rice fields in Bangladesh.
Globally, agriculture is the second leading
industrial source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for more emissions
than the transportation sector.
The use of nitrogen fertilizer is a key
driver of agricultural emissions. Arcadia’s NUE technology, which enables crops
to produce high yields using significantly less fertilizer, can have a major
positive impact on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Arcadia and its technology licensees have
demonstrated in more than 20 field trials in five crops and multiple growing
regions that NUE technology can significantly reduce fertilizer use while
maintaining high yield levels. The greenhouse gas measurement work that will be
done through the USAID grant will help refine methodologies that could allow farmers
to gain carbon credits from reduced fertilizer use.
“We are facing the huge global challenge of
feeding a world population that is expected to increase by one-third by the
year 2050,” said Julie Howard, USAID’s chief scientist in the Bureau for Food
Security and Senior Advisor to the Administrator on Agricultural Research,
Extension and Education.