A STARTUP company has created a battery that recharges itself when placed in soil. 

Bactery, which is a University of Bath spinout company, has developed bacteria-powered batteries ('Bacteries'), that harvest energy from soil by taking advantage of natural processes that occur in microorganisms within it.

Current on farm power delivery methods - such as cabling, chemical batteries, or solar panels - restrict the use of agri-data solutions, such as sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. These devices collect and relay data on the state of the fields, which allows farmers to make well-informed decisions. But Bactery will offer a more practical, affordable and reliable solution to powering these electronics. 

Dr Jakub Dziegielowski, the company's CEO, said: “Our initial goal is to leverage the unique Bactery technology to accelerate the shift toward digitalisation within the agriculture sector.”

According to Bactery, the technology has a useable lifespan of over 25 years, and an anticipated cost of around £25 per unit with no maintenance expenses, with the company promising ‘install and forget’ functionality.

The technology used to create Bactery's technology builds on Soil Microbial Fuel Cells (SMFCs), which harness energy from the metabolic activity of specific microorganisms known as electrigens, naturally present in soil. Electrigens have the unique ability to generate electrons during the consumption of organic compounds. These electrons are ‘grabbed’ by the SMFCs and are forced to travel through an external circuit, producing electricity.

Bactery proved the concept in 2019 and since then, the company has effectively improved the design. The next 12 months will be spent refining prototypes before working towards small-scale production. 

Dr Dziegielowski added: “Bringing our product to this stage and putting theory into practice through several years of research has been a challenging, yet incredibly rewarding experience. It wouldn’t have been possible without our great team and the support of many others along the way.

“I am excited to see the company make a positive difference in agriculture, and in other sectors. We look forward to sharing more about the upcoming advancements of Bactery technology and future applications in the near future.”

Bactery’s directors also include chemical engineer Professor Mirella Di Lorenzo, and electronic engineer Dr Ben Metcalfe.

Prof Di Lorenzo said: “Farmers are increasingly valuing the importance of data to make informed decisions towards resource-efficient agricultural practises. We are removing the barrier to generating that data by creating a sustainable way to power sensors, and making them always-on, cheap, low-maintenance and low-impact.”

Dr Metcalfe added: “This is a powerful illustration of how our Bactery technology could be used, but this is just the first application of what we believe is a great method of generating clean energy in an innovative, sustainable way.”

Ahead of the 2026 product launch, the team is inviting potential collaborators and investors in relevant fields to get in touch.