About SFI

Founded by Dr. Elaine Ingham in 1996, Soil Foodweb Inc is  dedicated to changing the way the world grows food and how humans treat the Earth's soils. 

The Soil Foodweb Approach has been used on over 5 Million acres worldwide to dramatically reduce input costs, increase yields and to sequester soil carbon at rates that have the potential to stop Climate Change. 

 

Dr. Elaine Ingham, B.A., M.S., Ph.D.

Founder and Director of Research for Soil Foodweb Inc.

Dr. Ingham has pioneered research in the field of Soil Biology over the last 4 decades and is widely recognized as the world's foremost soil biologist.

Behind Dr. Ingham’s user-friendly approach to soil biology lies a wealth of knowledge and research on the different groups of microorganisms that make up the Soil Food Web.

Her goal is to empower people to bring the soils in their communities back to life using the science of the Soil Food Web. Dr. Ingham's revolutionary approach has been used to restore the ecological functions of living-soils all over the world, ensuring healthy, strong plants and super-nutritious food, whilst eliminating soil erosion and the need for chemical inputs. 

Growing Better Plants by Restoring Soil Biology

From 1996 to the present, at Soil Foodweb, Inc., Elaine has developed new methods of assessing soil and foliar biology and the impact of various management practices on these communities of microorganisms. She has focused on grower-related issues, such as reducing input costs whilst increasing fertility and yields. She has demonstrated numerous times that intensive chemical use not only damages and destroys the soil by harming beneficial organisms, but that it also reduces fertility and nutrient concentrations in plants. 

Our Mission:
What We Do and What We Believe In
We empower other to grow plants without eroding the soil, without using chemicals and inorganic fertilizers.   
We use living, beneficial soil organisms to do the work of making nutrients available to plants. Nutrients exist in all the world's soils in extremely high amounts but need the soil food web to release them to plants. 

We use the natural balances of microbes to select for desired plants, and against un-desired plants.   Weeds become less and less of a problem as the proper balances are attained.

With healthy sets of soil life, roots of plants go deeper into the soil, more water infiltrates and is stored in the soil as soil structure is built. Compaction disappears, and organic matter in the soil begins once again to hold its maximum amount of water.  

Making certain that plants are never stressed for nutrients, water or sunlight means foods will contain the maximum concentrations of nutrients, vitamins and minerals, leading to healthier animals and healthier humans at less cost than we pay for poor nutrient quality food today.

Carbon is sequestered in the soil, and throughout the whole soil profile.  Repairing soil requires all these benefits be invoked, such that CO2 is put back into the soil from whence it came, before people started using toxic, destructive methods to grow plants.

We operate on any scale, from a single lawn to 300,000 hectares, and believe our approach can be scaled worldwide.

More About Dr. Elaine Ingham's Work

A brief overview of four decades of research into the Soil Foodweb.

Elaine grew up in the Midwest, and was influenced at an early age by her father, who along with being a college professor, often helped dairies improve the health of their livestock.

Elaine started her academic career at St. Olaf College with a B.A., Biology and Chemistry, cum laude, in 1974. She later earned an M.S. in Microbiology at Texas A & M University and her Doctorate in Microbiology, (with an emphasis in soil,) from Colorado State University.

In 1985, Dr. Ingham was awarded a Research Associate Fellowship at the University of Georgia and in 1981, Dr. Ingham was awarded a Post-doctoral position at Colorado State University’s NREL.

From the mid-1980’s to the mid-1990’s, Dr. Ingham was a Faculty Member in Forest Science and Botany and Plant Pathology at Oregon State University.  Where her research was focused on understanding the role and function of soil organisms in plant production. 

 In 1991, Dr. Ingham opened a service called the Soil Microbial Biomass Service, offering researchers and commercial clients the ability to have soil samples analyzed for soil foodweb organisms.

From 1996 to the present, at Soil Foodweb, Inc., Elaine has developed three new methods of rapidly assessing soil and foliage-related organisms and  how soil and foliar biology changes with different management practices.  She has focused on grower-related issues, such as reducing the cost to grow plants by showing that intensive chemical use not only damages and destroys the soil by harming beneficial organisms in the soil and on foliage, but also reduces nutrient concentrations in plants.

In the year 2000, Dr. Ingham opened a lab at Southern Cross University in Lismore, Australia, allowing grower’s overnight access to the assays they need to improve plant production without the use of high levels of inorganic chemicals.

From 2011 to 2014, Dr. Ingham served as the Chief Scientist for the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania.

From 2014 to August, 2018,  Elaine has been the Managing Scientist at Environment Celebration Institute in Berry Creek, CA, which was a non- profit research facility focusing on scientific experiments to assess the impact of soil biology on plant production. In the first two years at ECI, Dr. Ingham showed that improvement in biology leads to reduced water use, reduced weed populations, improved nutrient cycling, no use of pesticides or inorganic fertilizers while improving plant production and nutrition. This data was published in Permaculture Magazine. 

  • Her biological products collaboration with Lyndon Smith, Wayne Woodward and Jim Johnson of Huma-Gro and with Tom Piatkowski of Helena Chemical Company lead the way for understanding which bio-stimulant products work best, and how much product is needed to achieve desired improvements in soil organism growth and functions.
  • Work with Ken Warner of Frontier Industries and Ron Stewart of Columbia Gorge Organics focused on making the best humus possible to establish the  biological components of the soil food web.  By increasing fungal or bacterial growth in soil, different plants can be selected in preference over others, along with improving disease and pest suppression, nutrient cycling, and increasing water holding in soil. 
  • Working with Holmes Enviro, Lab, offering a new assay using selective media and molecular methods to identify whether twenty of the most beneficial bacteria are present in your soil, compost or compost tea
  • International work on compost tea, improving the understanding of how to properly manage thermally-produced compost, vermicompost, and compost tea, to guarantee disease-suppressive, soil-building, nutrient-retaining composts and compost teas.
  • Extensive work on genetically engineered organism issues with the Edmond’s Institute, a non-governmental organization,) directed by Beth Burrows. Dr. Ingham is a strong advocate of sound ecological testing of all genetically-engineered organisms before they are released into the environment.
  • Her current projects range from working on soil life in citrus groves in Florida, to cotton and avocado in Australia and Brazil, turf and golf courses, pasture and landscape internationally, roadside restoration in California and just about every other plant system in between.
  • To date, Elaine has directly and indirectly through her courses and consultations, helped thousands repair their soil health.  Whether on the farm, on the ranch, on parks, riparian zones, zoos, plains, greenhouses or forests.
  • In her spare time, Elaine publishes scientific papers, contributes to books and other publications and gives talks at conferences around the world. Attendance at Elaine’s courses is always very high given her depth of knowledge and dynamic presentation style. 
  • Elaine and her husband Russ (who also has a Doctorate from Colorado State University in Zoology, emphasizing nematology,) live in Corvallis Oregon.

The SFI Team

Dr. Eva Schneider Ph.D

Soil Foodweb Consultant Training Program Manager

The world of microbiology has always held a special fascination for Dr. Schneider and has played a large part in her life. During her studies in Germany, she focused in the areas of micro and molecular biology.  After earning her Ph.D. she enjoyed diverse areas of work, acquiring many skills.  While living in Arizona, she was a biology teacher at a community college and a coach to a youth rowing crew.

During her time volunteering at a ranch in Washington, she discovered Dr. Elaine Ingham’s work, immediately recognizing that Dr. Ingham’s discoveries would be instrumental in saving the world with microbes!

 

She is now happily learning, working with and sharing her knowledge of the Soil Food Web with the students of SFI. She also works with Dr. Ingham to help coordinate her many travels and working engagements around the world.

 

Education:

Doctorum Rerum Naturalis in Biology, magna cum laude, University of Konstanz, Germany, 1997 (Ph.D. in Biology)

Diplom in Biology, University of Konstanz, Germany, 1991 (German equiv. Master of Science)

Bachelor of Science in Microbiology, magna cum laude, Arizona State University, 1986

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