Biopesticides and Biocontrols

Indigo Ag creates fellowship to further efforts of Penn State Microbiome Center

21 December 2022, University Park, PA: In support of the Penn State Microbiome Center, Indigo Agriculture created the Indigo Agriculture Graduate Fellowship in the College of Agricultural Sciences through a $200,000 gift, matched 1:1 by the University through the now-concluded Graduate Scholarship Matching Program.

The fellowship is designated for full-time doctoral candidates whose research shows potential to directly impact the field of phytobiomes, as demonstrated by their dissertation proposal, and who are active participants in the Penn State Microbiome Center, which boasts members from several Penn State colleges, campuses and institutes. Phytobiomes consist of plants (phyto) situated in their specific ecological areas (biome).

Hanareia Ehau-Taumaunu, Terry Torres Cruz and Rachel Herschlag were the fellowship recipients in Penn State’s Microbiome Center. All three students are members of the department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology.

“Support for graduate students is paramount to our mission, and this kind of named endowment is unprecedented in the Microbiome Center and our department,” said Carolee Bull, former (inaugural) director of the Penn State Microbiome Center and head of the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology (PPEM). “We are so glad that Indigo Ag sees the potential in what we are doing in the microbiome center and in the graduates we are producing — the future thought leaders in this critical field.”

“There’s great strength in collaboration, and we have witnessed the quality of the Penn State program and its microbiome center,” said Steven Screen, Head of Microbial Discovery at Indigo Ag. “With this type of support, we are hoping to further the mission of the microbiome center, create more interactions between Penn State and Indigo Ag, and promote phytobiome research by supporting the students who are conducting that research.”

Established in 2013, Indigo Ag leverages science, technology, data, and partnerships to realize agriculture’s potential to drive sustainability outcomes. The company’s novel digital and biological solutions – including seed treatments that harness beneficial plant microbes to help plants respond better under stress – support farmers’ sustainability efforts.

The company has hosted several interns from PPEM and now employs three Penn State graduates on its research and development team as well as several others in other company functions.

“Our goal at the Penn State Microbiome Center is to feed a world whose population is steadily increasing,” said Bull. “Our planet just passed 8 billion people, and it is estimated there will be 9.8 billion by 2050.”

Microbes, she added, are the key.

“The last green revolution saw us using genetics to increase yield of the plants that feed us. Researchers expect, and we believe, that harnessing the power of microbes in plants—the phytobiome—will be the green revolution of tomorrow. The Indigo Agriculture Graduate Fellowship will help us to encourage and cultivate future generations who will carry this work forward.”

The Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences represents the foundation of Penn State and its land-grant mission to serve the public good. Through teaching, research, and Extension, and because of generous alumni and friends, the College of Agricultural Sciences is able to offer scholarships to one in four students, create life-shaping opportunities, and make a difference in the world by fueling discovery, innovation, and entrepreneurship. To learn more about supporting the college, visit

With the record-breaking success of “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” which raised $2.2 billion from 2016 to 2022, philanthropy is helping to sustain the University’s tradition of education, research and service to communities across the Commonwealth and around the globe.

Scholarships enable our institution to open doors and welcome students from every background, support for transformative experiences allows our students and faculty to fulfill their vast potential for leadership, and gifts toward discovery and excellence help us to serve and impact the world we share. To learn more about the impact of giving and the continuing need for support, please visit

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