April 27, 2020

The search for a cure: How we’re helping to mitigate the spread of COVID-19

By Lindsay LaSala, Corporate and Foundation Communications Manager, ScottsMiracle-Gro

At ScottsMiracle-Gro, we are invested in doing our part to fight COVID-19, and our colleagues from all over North America are supporting efforts to mitigate the spread in unique and impactful ways. Last week, I shared a story about my colleagues in Temecula, California, who donated 9,000 face shields to first responders in critical areas of need. Today, I connected with two of my colleagues in our Saint-Bonaventure manufacturing facility in Quebec to hear their story. 

Regional Quality Manager Miguel Mercier and R&D Manager Lawrence Vanderark are working with Medicago, a leading clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, to develop a soil mix that will be used to create a plant-based vaccine for COVID-19. I’m excited to share what I learned…


Tell me about what you do at our Saint-Bonaventure facility. 

Vanderark: We develop and distribute a full range of ScottsMiracle-Gro products for the gardening industry, from fertilizers to grass seed. However, we specialize in creating high-performance growing media products, including peat-based and bark-based mixes, composts and premium soils. 

I am with the R&D team. We do a lot of research to understand peat, the materials that go into our mixes, and formulate them. 

Mercier: I’m the technical services regional manager at our Canadian Saint-Bonaventure operation. I focus on everything related to quality and make sure our products meet the highest standards and the requirements of our customers. 

Saint-Bonaventure team members who helped to produce the Medicago mix


How did the opportunity to work with Medicago come about? Has ScottsMiracle-Gro worked with them before?

Mercier: Yes, we have worked with Medicago before. They contacted us for the first time about four years ago when they were working to produce a vaccine with a tobacco plant. Medicago has a massive greenhouse for their plant-based research. And to grow plants, you need soil, so that’s where we came in.  

Vanderark: The R&D team has been responsible for developing a specially formulated soil mix for Medicago’s specifications and needs over the past several years. Last year alone, we delivered 4,250 bags to them. A few weeks ago, they re-engaged with us to distribute another batch for their latest efforts to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. 


So, what’s in the soil mix that you’re distributing for this vaccine? 

Mercier: It’s the same mix that we usually prepare for them. It consists of professional grade peat, perlite and some fertilizer. We have to ensure that it’s really consistent and really course peat. A lot of work goes into developing the specifications to make sure that the mix Medicago receives is of the highest quality possible and that it’s going to perform at the highest standards possible.

Medicago mix getting palletized during production


How will Medicago use this batch?

Vanderark: Medicago is moving quickly. They announced the successful production of a novel coronavirus Virus-Like Particle (VLP) in just 20 days. With this soil batch, our operations team was able to readjust their production planning schedules, produce the batch and ship it within a week so that Medicago could do its important work. It’s an incredible feeling to be able to produce one of the components that will be used in the fight against the virus. 

Learn more about our efforts to grow more good.