Israeli startup EQUInom, which uses novel computational breeding technologies to breed seeds for the global food industry, has closed a $1.25 million financing round.
EQUInom has also signed an agreement with Obela, a joint venture of PepsiCo Inc. and Strauss Group Ltd., Sesame hybrid performance: For each of the parental lines P1 and P2 and their F1 hybrid, a representative plant (left) with its capsules (right) are presented. While the parental line P1 and P2 yielded about 1,000 and 330 kg of sesame seeds per hectare (10,000 square meters or 2.47 acres) respectively, the hybrid line yielded more than 4,150 kg per hectare. Photo: EQUInomto cooperate in a breeding program using EQUInom’s proprietary breeding process and technology. The financing will be used to accelerate the company’s plant-protein seed-breeding program through bioinformatics, genomics and phenomics.
The company has raised a total of $2.25 million to date, including the latest round, which was led by Hazera (1939) Ltd.
EQUInom’s experts have developed a unique breeding process that integrates DNA sequencing data with phenotype data (the observable characteristics) of the plant. Using algorithms that identify parts of the DNA with breeding value, EQUInom has achieved levels of precision and speed of development previously unachievable. The technology allows the company to breed non-GMO varieties while achieving levels of accuracy and efficiency unfeasible in classical breeding processes. Consequently, EQUInom is breeding healthier and cheaper new crops with reduced production costs.
EQUInom is breeding seeds that will create plant-protein-based products that will serve as improved, cheaper alternatives to soybean-based products, which can have allergens and aftertastes.
Earlier this month, market research consulting firm Mordor Intelligence reported that the plant-protein market totaled around $7.7 billion in 2015 and would grow to more than $10 billion in 2020.
Foodtech startup EQUInom was founded in 2012 by Gil Shalev, Ph.D., who serves as CEO of the company. To date, EQUInom has developed varieties of sesame and quinoa that grow more efficiently and have enhanced nutritional value. The company’s first products are expected to reach the market in the next two years.
“The bioinformatic technology and methodologies that we have developed allow us to simultaneously enhance and lower the cost of a broad spectrum of plant-based food products,” Shalev said. “EQUInom's proprietary developments make it possible to improve the probability of success of challenging plant breeding programs 10-fold, without changing the budget, and while halving the program’s schedule compared with regular methods. Our algorithms enable us to identify and select genes with the objective of breeding varieties with maximum market value.”
EQUInom’s technology makes it possible to precisely enhance the seed composition and quality, opening a new global era of plant breeding by adapting specialized crops for specific food products. As a result, food companies will be able to specify and obtain new raw materials that fit their needs.
“EQUInom envisions a new supply chain model for the global food industry. Food companies may imagine and specify new, healthier and more profitable varieties of plant-based nutrition that have previously not existed,” Shalev said. “These varieties will be supplied by next generation seed companies—such as EQUInom—with high precision and at far lower production costs.
“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,” he added.