Fabricated ecosystems—EcoFABs—are plastic, takeout box–sized growth chambers developed at Berkeley Lab to be a standardized and reproducible platform for conducting experiments on model plants and the microbes that live around their roots. A greater understanding of how plants and microbes work together to store vast amounts of atmospheric carbon in the soil will help in the design of better bioenergy crops for the fight against climate change.
For Pete Andeer, the idea to help solve some of our planet’s larger environmental issues came while he was living and working abroad. Now he’s on the team that’s building an all-in-one experimental robot station to understand the mechanics of plant and microbe interactions like never before.
When researchers report developing a more efficient solar cell, or a technique that improves drug delivery, one of the inevitable follow-up questions they face is, “When will this be available to consumers?” In recent years, attempts to bridge the distance from lab bench to market have been promoted for researchers committed to seeing their work be applied to real world situations at universities, national laboratories and other institutions.
One such program is Fed Tech, launched in 2013 as part of the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program. Trent Northen and Peter Andeer, scientists in the Biosciences Area’s Environmental Genomics & Systems Biology (EGSB) Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), were part of the Fall 2018 cohort of Fed Tech Start-Up Studio, which culminated with a Pitch Day in late November. With entrepreneurs Rick Kjellberg and Jayan Rammohan, they were among 20 teams that participated in the eight-week program.