The Israeli business has closed a $1.25m financing round led by Hazera (1939) Ltd, a specialist in seed and field crops production. The funding will be used to accelerate EQUInom ‘s proprietary breeding process and technology program, which it says can develop healthier non-GMO crops.
EQUInom says it has already developed sesame and quinoa varieties that can be grown more cheaply and with enhanced nutritional value. And it is currently breeding seeds for use in plant protein-based products that it said will be “improved and cheaper alternatives” to those based on soy.
Some products are in pre-commercial phases and are due to reach market in the next two years.
Agreement with PepsiCo joint venture
The business has also signed an agreement with dips and spreads producer Obela, a joint venture between PepsiCo and Israeli food manufacturer Strauss Group, to cooperate in a seed breeding program.
The EQUInom process integrates “massive use” of DNA sequencing data with phenotype data (the observable characteristics) of the plant. Algorithms developed by the company identify parts of the DNA with breeding value, which are integrated to a final product in a unique breeding program.
High levels of accuracy and efficiency
This business claims this process can achieve levels of accuracy and efficiency “unfeasible” in traditional breeding processes.
“The bioinformatic technology and methodologies we have developed allow us to simultaneously enhance and lower the cost of a broad spectrum of plant-based food products,” said CEO Dr Gil Shalev, who founded the business in 2012. “Our algorithms enable us to identify and select genes with the objective of breeding varieties with maximum market value.”
Shalev said the odds of success of many seed breeding programs were between 5% and 8%, and claimed EQUInom technology could increase the probability to 50% to 80%, while halving development costs.
New supply chain model
He said he envisioned a new supply chain model for the global food industry that would allow companies to imagine and specify new, healthier and more profitable varieties of plant-based nutrition.
“For example, food companies may consider new, more nutritious and profitable kind of breakfast cereal and work directly with seed companies to create and produce a new variety of quinoa for the cereal, which will be cheaper for the consumer and include full protein," added Shalev.