UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In support of the Penn State Microbiome Center, Indigo Agriculture has created the Indigo Agriculture Graduate Fellowship in the College of Agricultural Sciences through a $200,000 gift, matched 1:1 by the University through the now-concluded Graduate Scholarship Matching Program.
The fellowship is designated for full-time doctoral candidates whose research shows potential to directly impact the field of phytobiomes, as demonstrated by their dissertation proposal, and who are active participants in the Penn State Microbiome Center, which boasts members from several Penn State colleges, campuses and institutes. Phytobiomes consist of plants situated in their specific ecological areas.
Hanareia Ehau-Taumaunu, Terry Torres Cruz and Rachel Herschlag were the fellowship recipients in Penn State’s Microbiome Center. All three students are members of the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology.
“Support for graduate students is paramount to our mission, and this kind of named endowment is unprecedented in our department,” said Carolee Bull, former (inaugural) director of the Penn State Microbiome Center and head of the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology. “We are glad that Indigo Agriculture sees the potential in what we are doing in the microbiome center and in our graduates, who are the future thought leaders in this critical field.”
Steven Screen, head of microbial discovery at Indigo Agriculture, said there is great strength in having an Indigo/academic collaboration. “We have witnessed the quality of the Penn State program and its microbiome center,” he said. “With this type of support, we are hoping to further the mission of the microbiome center, create more interactions between Penn State and Indigo Ag, and promote phytobiome research by supporting the students who are conducting that research.”
Established in 2013, Indigo Agriculture uses beneficial plant microbes and agronomic insights to work with growers to promote plant growth, help plants respond better under stress, and sustainably produce high-quality harvests. The company has hosted several interns from Penn State’s Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology. It now employs three Penn State graduates on its research and development team and several others in other company functions.
“Our goal at the Penn State Microbiome Center is to feed a world whose population is steadily increasing,” said Bull. “Our planet just passed 7.6 billion people, and it is estimated there will be 9.8 billion by 2050.”
Microbes, she added, are the key.
“The last green revolution saw us using genetics to increase yield of the plants that feed us,” Bull said. “Researchers expect, and we believe, that harnessing the power of microbes in plants — the phytobiome — will be the green revolution of tomorrow. The Indigo Agriculture Graduate Fellowship will help us to encourage and cultivate future generations who will carry this work forward.”
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–Penn State University