+27 71 448 3496

Biobanks and fungus have untold secrets

Share Article
Fungus holds many secrets and might just be what you looking for to find a solution to a complex problem. Image credit: Leon Louw for WhyAfrica

Biobanks and fungus have untold secrets

If you’re in the mining, energy, health, agriculture or environmental sectors, and you like thinking out of the box, or if you’re trying to solve a complex environmental problem, why not go and look for a solution where nobody else does?

By Leon Louw owner of WhyAfrica

WhyAfrica did exactly that and found a bag full of new fascinating ideas, incredible scientific research, and unbelievable stories to keep us busy for another century at least.

If you haven’t heard of Biodiversity Biobanks yet, best you find out what they are and look for one close to you. The sooner the better. These Biobanks might just hold the key to the solution you’ve been looking for.

Biodiversity Biobanks preserve genetic resources, including reproductive tissues such as seeds, egg and sperm, and other tissues including blood, DNA extracts and microbial cultures, representing all species, strains, varieties, and breeds (including domesticated crops and livestock).

These collections can be used to support research, capacity development and the development of new or improved products and practices in the fields of agriculture, mining, energy, human health and well-being, environmental management, and conservation biology.

South Africa has seven main Biobanks now represented by the Biodiversity Biobanks of South Africa (BBSA). South Africa already has a wealth of biobank samples, collected over many years from across Africa, and if these are appropriately secured, they could be used to create a time-series of biomaterials that will help us understand change, and allow us to predict how this change will play out into the future.

WhyAfrica plans to visit a number of these biobanks over the next few months. We started our Biobank tour by visiting Riana Jacobs, Curator and researcher at the National Collection of Fungi, Biosystematics Division at the ARC-Plant Protection Research Institute, Pretoria, South Africa last week.

Fungus and its application in mining (Biobanks and fungus have untold secrets)

If you’re in the mining or environmental management sectors and you wonder what fungus has to do with you, only a little bit of research will unveil the incredible and diverse applications of fungus in mining, remediation, and rehabilitation.

For example, lichens and fungi can colonise and dissolve constituents of asbestos and studies have shown that certain fungi can solubilise low grade iron ore for the bioleaching process.

In South Africa alone, there are reportedly close to 5700 derelict asbestos mines that pose a serious environmental and health threat to communities in these areas.

Pyrometallurgical and hydrometallurgical technologies for recovery of metals from low grade ores require high energy and capital costs. The use of microorganisms in leaching of mineral ores have gained importance over the last few years as mining companies focus more on reducing costs and improving their environmental performance.

Microbes have been known to convert metal compounds into their water soluble forms and are biocatalysts of leaching processes and there are several studies where this process has been done extremely successful.

But that’s not all! Fungi can be used in several other applications in mining and agriculture. To find out more you will have to wait for our main feature in the April issue of WhyAfrica’s magazine, which will focus on way out “out of the box” thinking for industry to change the world.

To subscribe to our free magazines and newsletters click here: https://www.whyafrica.co.za/subscribe/

Alternatively, you can become a WhyAfrica member and gain deeper insight into the wonderful world of fungus and what you can do with this genetic material. To become a member click here: https://www.whyafrica.co.za/product/membership/

In the video is Riana’s fantastic collection of Bracket fungi which often grows in semi-circular shapes, looking like trees or wood. They can be parasitic, saprotrophic, or both.

The magic of fungi (Biobanks and fungus have untold secrets)

According to a study by a number of authors called: The amazing potential of fungi: 50 ways we can exploit fungi industrially (published online in 2019) fungi are an understudied, biotechnologically valuable group of organisms.

“Due to the immense range of habitats that fungi inhabit, and the consequent need to compete against a diverse array of other fungi, bacteria, and animals, fungi have developed numerous survival mechanisms.

“The unique attributes of fungi thus herald great promise for their application in biotechnology and industry. Moreover, fungi can be grown with relative ease, making production at scale viable.

“The search for fungal biodiversity, and the construction of a living fungi collection, both have incredible economic potential in locating organisms with novel industrial uses that will lead to novel products.” (From: The amazing potential of fungi: 50 ways we can exploit fungi industrially, 2019)

This manuscript reviews fifty ways in which fungi can potentially be utilised as biotechnology. Fungi have provided the world with penicillin, lovastatin, and other globally significant medicines, and they remain an untapped resource with enormous industrial potential.

Biobanks and fungus have untold secrets

WhyAfrica provides on the ground information and business intelligence about the sustainable utilisation and extraction of natural resources in Africa, and can assist your company through:  

  1. Membership:
  • WhyAfrica’s membership offers great business insights to you, your company, and clients.
  • Amongst many other benefits, we will publish editorial content about you or your company on the WhyAfrica online platform and on all WhyAfrica’s social media pages – the annual fee is R5,500 and you can find out more or subscribe here: https://www.whyafrica.co.za/product/membership/ 
  1. Sponsorship:
  • WhyAfrica’s annual 45-day African Road Trip takes place in July and August. We will visit more than 30 project sites and this year we plan to visit the Limpopo Province of South Africa, Zimbabwe or Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, and Kenya. Sponsoring the Road Trip, or to be a WhyAfrica member, gives you unparalleled insight into the business environment of the countries that we travel to and the project sites we visit.
  • To be a member or sponsor allows you access to invaluable, on the ground, business intelligence and a great marketing opportunity for all companies doing business in Africa.
  • The main aim of our Road Trips is to promote Africa as an investment destination and to showcase Africa’s greatest companies, and projects to our large global audience, which includes a list of potential investors, venture capitalists and serial entrepreneurs.
  • To view the photos of last year’s Southern Africa Road Trip click on the gallery link or follow our Instagram account at why.africa https://www.whyafrica.co.za/road-trips/whyafrica-road-trips/. 
  1. Advertising:
  • We publish daily online articles on our WhyAfrica platform and post them on social media every day. Our combined online reach is more than 45,000. In-article banner ads are highly successful advertising tools as is advertising space on our website.
  • In addition to our bi-weekly newsletters, we publish two printed- and two interactive digital magazines per year. The printed magazines are distributed at major events and conferences throughout the year, and also on our WhyAfrica Road trips.
  • Digital magazines are e-mailed to all our subscribers and shared on our social media platforms. A copy of the latest edition is automatically attached to all our outgoing e-mails.
  • WhyAfrica magazines provide great marketing opportunities. There are also in-article and on-line advertising opportunities at exceptional rates. Contact me for more information on leon@whyafrica.co.za or give me a call.
  • To subscribe to WhyAfrica’s free newsletters and magazines click on the link and register: https://www.whyafrica.co.za/subscribe/  
  1. 4. Partnerships
  • Maximise your African exposure and link with our large business network through becoming one of only 10 WhyAfrica partners. We have only five prime partnership positions left for 2023, so contact me at leon@whyafrica.co.za before the end of March to get the best deal.

Biobanks and fungus hold untold mining secrets

Share Article


AgricultureEnvironmental Management & Climate ChangeEnergyESGInfrastructureMiningPolitical EconomyTourism and ConservationWater Management