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In the Soil

Trace Genomics wants to be a "23andMe for farms," TechCrunch writes. As GenomeWeb has reported, the startup company has raised $4 million in seed funding and has launched a $199 test to analyze soil samples for a dozen disease-causing pathogens. The test has an estimated turn-around time of two to three weeks.

"The concept has been seen in the human health world in services like 23andMe, or uBiome," TechCrunch writes. "But Trace Genomics claims to be the first to conduct rapid 'microbiome' testing and data analysis in farms."

The test relies on next-generation sequencing — the company took part in Illumina's accelerator — and can be expanded beyond those initial pathogens that infect lettuce and strawberries. The company tells TechCrunch that it expects to not only be able to determine what pathogens are present in soil, but also what beneficial bacteria are there.

"Healthy soil breeds healthy crops. There are harmful pathogens and beneficial organisms that live in the soil and interact during the whole planting season and through harvest," says Zal Bilimoria, a cofounder and general partner at Refactor Capital, which has invested in Trace Genomics. "Trying to understand what is in the soil, biologically, would be a really important dataset for farmers."