AgroEnviroLab (AEL) is a private laboratory that performs various types of analyses. Their services mainly target Quebec’s conventional farmers since they offer analysis services for agricultural soils, plant tissues, organic fertilizers and horticultural soils. To remain competitive, AEL must remain on the lookout for new market directions. Thus, in recent years, AEL has integrated the Global Soil Health™ assessment to its service offer. This innovative and current service takes into consideration the sustainable productivity of soils and the protection of environmental resources, aspects which are often overlooked by conventional analyses. In their desire to remain at the leading edge, AgroEnviroLab considers Quebec’s organic farming sector to be an important market opportunity and therefore wishes to invest in the development of global soil health indicators, specifically targeting the needs of organic producers. To do so, the company commissioned Biopterre to develop a new service offer for organic producers focused on their main interest: the assessment of microbiological life in soils.
Biopterre collaborated with its counterpart CETAB+ (Centre d’expertise et de transfert en agriculture biologique et de proximité) in Victoriaville to set up a 15-month research project that would meet the needs of AEL. To assess soil microbiological health, a review of the scientific literature was conducted, leading to the selection of four laboratory protocols. For AEL, the resulting protocol had to be fast and technically accessible for its laboratory, while being inexpensive and interpretable to organic producers. The protocols were adapted by Biopterre’s biotechnology laboratory to make them entirely accessible to AEL and eventually transfer the protocols to the client through training. To test the methods, twelve soil plots dedicated to organic market gardening in southern Quebec were sampled and characterized using microbiology protocols. Data interpretation allowed the results from microbiological analyses to be correlated with the Global Soil Health™ indicators already in place at AEL and also to certain farming practices.
AEL is pursuing its drive for innovation in collaboration with Biopterre by studying the effect of long-term soil sample conservation on microbiological analyses.
Impact on the company
AEL is integrating the findings of this research project by adding new soil health microbial indicators to its service offer, which is of primary interest to organic farmers. This is leading the company into developing a new agronomic expertise, namely in organic farming, and thus diversifying its markets and increasing its revenues. The outcomes of the research project will eventually enable them to become a benchmark laboratory for organic farmers. In the long term, the knowledge and experience gained through this project can also be transferred and adapted to conventional farms, hence increasing the company’s customer base.