Harmony in the Soil: Uncovering Principles for the Design of Self-Sustaining Beneficial Agricultural Ecosystems

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2024: $29,727.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2025
Grant Recipient: We Grow Microgreens, LLC
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Lisa Evans
We Grow Microgreens, LLC


  • Additional Plants: herbs


  • Crop Production: greenhouses, high tunnels or hoop houses

    Proposal summary:

    Our project focuses on
    establishing ecosystems within agricultural settings that are not
    just effective in the short term but are self-sustaining in the
    long run. These are known as self-sustaining bioregenerative
    ecosystems (SSBE). Our goal is to create a balanced ecological
    system where each introduced organism plays a continuous role in
    maintaining and enhancing soil and plant health and suppressing
    disease and pests.

    The core of our approach

    1. Designing Integrated
      Ecosystems: We plan to design ecosystems where beneficial
      organisms, such as nematodes, don't just solve issues like pest
      infestations in a single-use manner, but become integral,
      enduring components of the ecosystem. This involves introducing
      secondary and tertiary organisms that create a symbiotic
      environment, allowing primary beneficial organisms to thrive
      and recycle indefinitely.
    2. Long-term Ecosystem Management:
      The project goes beyond the initial setup of these ecosystems.
      We will monitor and fine-tune the system to ensure its
      long-term viability and adaptability to changing environmental
      conditions and agricultural needs. We hope to achieve SSBE
      persistence over multiple seasons.

    Our ultimate objective is to
    develop and standardize methodologies and practices that allow
    for the creation of these self-sustaining ecosystems in various
    contexts. The expected outcome is a blueprint for SSBE-based
    farming that significantly reduces the need for external
    interventions, thereby promoting sustainability, reducing costs,
    and enhancing crop productivity in the long term. This has
    utilizations ranging from immediate agricultural applications to
    closed-loop bioregenerative life support systems that are
    expected to one day support long-term space exploration

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Our project is designed to
    achieve several objectives:

    • Experiment with Three Major
      Ecosystem Designs: Test three unique ecosystems to identify the
      most beneficial synergies for plant growth, disease and pest
      control. These will be tested sequentially to benefit insights
      gained after each experiment. For each iteration, we will
      compare an untreated control against an experimental ecosystem,
      sending each for root exudate analysis. Along with root exudate
      analysis, we will also study insect populations to assess the
      designed ecosystems’ abilities to promote their
    • Experiment with Many Minor
      Ecosystem Designs: This objective is the same as the previous,
      except these experiments will not be analyzed for root
      exudates, thus saving significant costs, allowing for rapid
    • Standardize Ecosystem Design
      Methodologies: Standardize methods for designing and deploying
      self-sustaining ecosystems that maintain their health and
      productivity, even in the absence of immediate pest

    Through this project, we
    anticipate not only advancing our scientific understanding of
    soil microbiology and plant-microbe interactions but also
    delivering practical, tangible benefits to farming practices. Our
    goal is to pave the way for more sustainable, efficient, and
    productive agriculture, rooted in a deep understanding of the
    soil's living tapestry.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.