Soil: Source of Life

by Ananda Fitzsimmons


Top soils around the world are being depleted at an alarming rate due to mining, erosion, climate change and agricultural practices, such as tilling and overuse of chemicals. If this situation is not addressed, it will reach crisis proportions within 70 years.

On January 23, Inocucor sponsored an event “Soil: Source of Life” organized by Mycelium Lab and Compost Montreal at Concordia University in recognition of the International Year of the Soil.

The evening featured short presentations from six individuals, each representing a different perspective on soil. First up was Silver Bear, the elder, an Iroquois seed keeper, who began by singing a sacred prayer/song. He spoke about how indigenous people view soil and seeds as our Mother Earth and the source of life. Then he talked briefly and with that native style of earthy humour about traditional ways of saving seed and preserving soil fertility.

Next up was the organic farmer, Loic Dewavrin. An industrial engineer turned farmer, Loic has farmed 600 hectares organically for the last 20 years! He grows mainly grains, corn, oats, buckwheat, wheat. There is an ever-increasing demand for his organic grains, and he has restored his soil fertility with low-till organic methods.

Emily Rose Michaud, the artist, explores the concepts of home, territory and our connection to our bio-region through land art. She makes installations involving land and plants, such as growing wheat grass in a large burlap tapestry and creating a huge outdoor installation with it. Her work brings people together and connects them to the natural world, even within the city. She invites us to live as if our lives depended on the place we live. Actually they do!

Jonathan Pineault, the entrepreneur, started a company called Ecomestible that creates sustainable landscaping that includes edible perennial plants. He talked about how natural systems are a model for us to copy and to build upon because they regenerate themselves.

Vanessa Reid is a social change worker who calls herself a soil worker, but the soil she works in is largely the soil of human culture. Vanessa found herself in Israel during conflict, in the U.K. when the world economy crashed in 2008, and in Greece when its economy crashed. She sees these breakdowns as the shadow side of our cultures and explores the issues of creating sustainable social economies. She, along with a group of colleagues, has converted an olive farm in Greece into the Living Wholeness Institute, which is more than a farm–a place where people come to create dialogue on social change.

Dr. Elaine Ingham, the scientist, finished the evening.  Dr. Ingham has made her career on understanding the life of the soil and coined the term Soil Food Web. The soil food web begins with the bacteria and fungi, and the chain goes right up to the larger predators, birds, insects and animals. She teaches about the complex interactions between all these players to create a sustainable ecosystem.

There was a three-day workshop on the life of the soil as well, so this talk on Friday was only a teaser. I attended the workshop so I can tell you more about Dr. Ingham’s work in another post.

The evening ended with a funny little music video, produced by Compost Montreal extolling the virtues of rotting things. Rotting is what we commonly call the process of decomposition, but it is really an important natural process to return organic matter to the soil. It is what feeds those bacteria and fungi that we should all learn to love!


Inocucor Technologies Inc., based in Montreal, is an ag biotech company that develops sustainable biological products for agriculture targeting the phyto-microbiome—the seeds, plants, root systems and the soil surrounding them. Inocucor’s first-generation product, Garden Solution®, soon to be re-branded as Synergro, employs live microbes to actively improve the health of the entire phyto-microbiome. Its second product, Synergro Free and future generations of Inocucor products are powerful biological formulations for bio-stimulation, bio-fertility and bio-control targeting mainstream production agriculture.

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