Alternative Roots

Welcome to

Alternative Roots
Newcastle iGEM 2018

Project Overview

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Soils contain diverse microbial communities.
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Within these communities are microbes with useful properties.
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Endophytes are microbes that live harmlessly within plant tissues.
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Can we programme endophytes to influence the wider microbial community?
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Could they synthesise chemicals to attract beneficial soil microbes?
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Attracting bacteria to fix nitrogen and reducing the need for chemical fertilisers.
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Or maybe the endophytes can synthesise chemicals that deter pests or pathogens?
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Alternative Roots: engineering endophytes for smart agricultural solutions.


The demand for food, fuel and materials is placing unprecedented pressure on agricultural production. To secure higher productivity, the sector relies upon synthetic fertilisers derived from energy intensive manufacturing methods. Here, we propose an alternative approach to support plant productivity.

The Alternative Roots project developed an endophytic bacterium as a synthetic biology chassis organism. Endophytes are micro-organisms that live within plant tissues without detrimental impact on their host. In developing a benign plant-colonising chassis there is the possibility of developing novel mechanisms for beneficial soil microbiome manipulation without genetically modified crops.

Legal and social considerations of the project, combined with concepts borrowed from the Urban Farming movement, drove the development of NH-1 - a low-cost, small-scale and programmable hydroponic system - and plans for the deployment of smart agricultural developments beneath the streets of Newcastle. Taken as a whole, the Alternative Roots project supports a vision for enhancing crop production at a local and accessible level.

Our Sponsors

Newcastle iGEM is proud to be sponsored by:

The iGEM Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of synthetic biology, education and competition, and the development of an open community and collaboration. This is done by fostering an open, cooperative community and friendly competition.

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iGEMers are building a better world by solving problems with the help of synthetic biology. We inspire responsible innovation through our efforts in biosafety, biosecurity and public outreach.

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This global network is leading the field, taking what they learned in the competition and expanding it to continue to build a better world.

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