How a simple experiment grew into a technological breakthrough

Four years ago a chemical engineer sprayed small amounts of purple liquid on trays of grass seed in a tiny greenhouse in a rural Minnesota town. It seemed like a routine experiment. However, those first few sprays were the initial research with a product that would four years later grow into Generate®, an easy-to-use microbial catalyst and a leap forward for agriculture crop production.

It all began with a question: Could a microbial catalyst that improves rumen function of cattle be provided through the grass they eat instead of a supplement? The grass gave an answer that surprised everyone. Yes, because of the soluble nature of Generate® it was 100% taken up into the grass, but the grass yield more than doubled as well. It’s called serendipity – you are looking for one thing and you find something else – it’s also the foundation of great innovation.

“We had no idea what to expect,” said Richard Lamb, chemical engineer of Ralco Labs. “The results were very surprising. The same amount of grass seed was put into each flat. The grass treated with Generate® was denser and fuller, but it was also greener as well and that surprised us.”

“You wouldn’t think in a complete soil with all the macronutrients it contains that a catalyst applied in such a small amount (10 ppm) would produce twice the growth. And what especially doesn’t happen is that you bracket what is optimum and what is too much right off the bat. Then to be able to cleanly reproduce the results the following year was truly remarkable,” Richard said.

When the results were repeated with a broad range of plants that second year, scientists took an even closer look at the plants and the soil. They discovered healthier plants, roots and seven times more nitrogen-fixing bacteria (Azotobacter) in the soil. That year a patent application was filed.

The third year, Generate® was applied to commercial crops for the first time. Again, increased yields were the result. In 2011 Generate® was put to the test in more than 100 commercial and small-plot trials. On average, Generate® increased corn yields by 7.2 bushels/acre and soybean