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Forestry’s Next Frontier: Funga PBC Joins Forces with North America’s Largest Forest Seedling Provider PRT-IFCO

Loblolly pine seedlings at PRT-IFCO's tree nursery.

A transformative milestone towards sustainable forestry becomes a reality as PRT-IFCO, North America’s largest forest seedling provider growing more than 600 million seedlings annually, partners with Funga PBC, a startup restoring forest soil biodiversity one seedling at a time.

Beneath the forest floor, the roots of nearly all trees intertwine with vast networks of symbiotic fungi. The presence of these networks, and the alliances they form with tree roots, is central for forest health—driving nutrient cycling, soil formation, and overall ecosystem resilience. Introducing native fungal biodiversity to trees at the nursery means that when trees get planted, so do their belowground counterparts. This comprehensive approach to replanting is a powerful opportunity to bolster the structure, function and composition of managed forest ecosystems. Together, Funga and PRT-IFCO are bringing this hidden kingdom into the commercial spotlight, unlocking new value for landowners and new life for the landscapes they manage. Looking ahead, PRT-IFCO will serve as Funga’s tree nursery partner, and Funga will be PRT-IFCO’s fungal inoculation provider, forwarding the vision for forestry’s next frontier.

Innovation in Forestry

Forestry, like most industries, is always innovating. To date, innovation in the forestry sector has been underpinned by remarkable advancements in yield-improvement. Since 1940, southern pine forestry has achieved a 427% increase in per-acre yield (Fox et al 2007 Journal of Forestry, Restrepo et al. 2019) owing to innovations in site preparation, weed control, fertilization, planting practices, and more. The partnership between PRT-IFCO and Funga beckons the industry’s next major step in its innovation journey—in its pursuit to unlock the full potential of forest.

Though the relationship between trees and soil fungal networks has long been recognized, its complexity has historically limited its direct application to forest improvement. Recent technological advancements, particularly in DNA sequencing, have now made it possible to document the diverse life in forest soils. Sampling hundreds of forests across North America, Funga has built an extensive soil microbiome data set to catalog this diversity of life. When this biodiversity snapshot is viewed alongside the historical growth data of those forests, Funga can control for other variables and identify correlations between the soil microbiome and forest health. By understanding which fungi promote tree growth across ecoregions, we can select native microbiology linked to yield enhancement.

Funga Team member Anthony Seliskar standing next to a control tree [left] vs a Funga-inoculated tree [right] at one of Funga's planting sites near Hoboken, GA. Both trees are approximately one year old.

Leveraging Carbon Markets

While fungal microbiome restoration enhances forest productivity, this is not Funga's sole mission. Funga restores belowground biodiversity in forests, and by doing so, accelerates forests' ability to capture and store atmospheric carbon. Since trees store carbon in their wood, increasing wood volume directly enhances carbon storage. This quantifiable additional carbon allows Funga to leverage the Voluntary Carbon Market (VCM) as a critical financing mechanism for biodiversity restoration. This partnership will allow Funga to deploy its natural climate solution at scale, while allowing PRT-IFCO the opportunity to create additional value for their clients derived from soil microbiome restoration, increased yield, and carbon market engagement.

A Vision for the Future

PRT-IFCO is proud to introduce to its customers not just an optimization for yield, but an entirely new arena with which to create value for its customers. For Funga, the partnership provides over 37 years of experience in producing high quality seedlings to support crucial nursery infrastructure and seedling expertise needs. This expertise and infrastructure is critical to scaling Funga’s work quickly, at a time when climate-smart and economically viable land management solutions are much needed. 

Innovation is at the heart of creating value amidst change. Funga and PRT-IFCO’s partnership establishes both companies as future-focused leaders in their respective industries. Forestry is innovating. Natural climate solutions are entering the traditional forestry space. The options landowners have to create value on their land are expanding. Working together, we position ourselves for the future of forestry, of our climate, and the changes of time.

“Partnering with Funga is an exciting step forward for PRT. By integrating fungal inoculation technology with our decades of experience growing high quality advanced seedlings, we are embarking on a new approach to sustainable forest management. This partnership shows the importance of innovation—bridging the gap between traditional silviculture and natural climate solutions. Together, we are not just planting trees; we are planting and restoring resilient ecosystems that will thrive for generations to come." –Randy Fournier, CEO of PRT-IFCO

"It's truly a privilege to work alongside PRT, the leader in North American seedling production. Together we are shifting away from the idea of "just" planting a tree, to planting an entire ecosystem with fungi at the foundation. This partnership marks the beginning of a new wave of regenerative forestry projects, aligning outcomes for timber growers, climate, and soil biodiversity." –Dr. Colin Averill, CEO of Funga

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