Israeli seed tech start-up Equinom has developed a new technology that it claims will result in high-functioning, non-genetically modified seeds with a superior nutritional profile and greater crop yield.
The technology combines combining natural breeding techniques with proprietary algorithms, creating a so-called “next-step ecosystem” that will directly connect food companies to the supply chain. In turn, it will bring greater transparency and pave the way for more responsible sourcing of high-value plant protein, Equinom says.
Gil Shalev, CEO of Equinom, explained: “The plant-based protein mega-trend has driven food companies to create more and more tasty, nutritious plant-based products. However, meeting demand has presented challenges due to poor organoleptic properties inherent in many plant protein ingredients. The high investment required to develop new, profitable varieties using conventional breeding, coupled by slow throughput, poses more obstacles.”
Equinom works with food companies to define desired target seed attributes – including protein load, taste, colour and nutritional performance – before crossbreeding seed varieties in search of the desired qualities.
The target product is formulated using a proprietary algorithm that runs millions of genomic combinations in silico via computer modelling, helping Equinom’s scientists to identify seeds with the highest nutritional potential.
The company is already working with Roquette to develop and source new pea varieties with a high-protein content.
In addition to the new collaboration, Roquette and Equinom’s current shareholder – Fortissimo Capital, Israel – will jointly invest $4 million in the company to support its further development, bringing the company a total of $10.5 million in investments to date.
And Equinom believes that it may be able to reap attractive rewards for numerous stakeholders through its method of computational breeding: farmers, it said, can grow more sustainable crops from seeds tailed to individual specifications, while consumers will be able to enjoy products of a higher nutritional value at competitive prices.
Itay Dana, director of marketing for Equinom, added: “A food company that depends on legumes of a certain composition may have to wait anywhere between five and ten years under traditional methods. Today, working in concert with the food company, we can design a target product with all the desired characteristics of taste, quality and nutrient composition within 2-3 years.”
The company has expressed its long-term goal of moving the agri-sector into a new sustainable and more profitable phase, engendering more plant protein diversity. Currently, 90% of cultivation of protein crops is concentrated on soy and wheat; Equinom’s technology also reduces the anti-nutritional factors inherent in plant proteins already at seed level. This, in turn, increases the proteins’ bioavailability, making them more nutritive and more fully absorbed in the gut.
As well as the recent Roquette deal, Equinom has signed a number of contracts with global leaders in the food industry including a multi-year contract with Sabra Dipping Company – a joint venture between PepsiCo and Israel’s Strauss Group – as well as a commercialisation agreement with Mitsui & Co of Japan.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019