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Over the past decade, Lior Hessel, CEO of Growponics, saw a major shift in consumer demand for organic produce, and realized that we couldn’t truly build a more sustainable food system without addressing the global emissions of fertilizers. Hessel shares that while “people want organic certification [in hydroponics], the organic fertilizers that are currently available are not good enough – solid organic fertilizers cannot be applied to hydroponic and other fertigation systems and the available liquid organic fertilizers cause a 15-20% reduction in quality and yields.”

Growponics tackles this problem head-on by attempting to replace the Haber-Bosch process through harnessing the power of cyanobacteria, which are among the oldest photosynthetic organisms on Earth.

The team has engineered a photobioreactor to utilize cyanobacteria’s natural biological process of fixing atmospheric nitrogen (N2) into ammonia (NH3), using the sun as the only energy input. They then refine the ammonia into a nitrate-based (NO3) hydroponic fertilizer.