Betterseeds: Using technology to improve crop yields

Israel-based BetterSeeds has shown that better crop genetics is the key to solving the nutritional challenge of population growth.

 CEO AND co-founder Ido Margalit.  (photo credit: LUZ)
CEO AND co-founder Ido Margalit.
(photo credit: LUZ)

As the world’s population rapidly increases – it is expected to rise from 7.8 billion to 10 billion by 2050 – modern agriculture is struggling to find the means to feed the world without expending precious natural resources. Economic conditions, climate changes and technological limitations require developing new growing methods with better yields for the same area. 

Israel-based BetterSeeds has shown that better crop genetics is the key to solving the nutritional challenge of population growth. Utilizing CRISPR gene-editing technology, BetterSeeds has developed genetic traits that enable automated harvesting, significantly better nutritional values, higher resistance to the changing global climate conditions, transforming multi-seasonal crops to single-seasons and bigger yields. These traits, attainable only by gene editing, will provide growers with more flexibility and choice in diversifying their crops, accompanied by more cost-efficient growing and harvesting, and will eventually transform global agriculture.

Gene editing enables precise and rapid breeding by introducing pre-selected, controlled and specific changes into the plant’s genome. BetterSeeds also develops novel technologies designed to make CRISPR accessible generically to all crops, thus resolving a significant bottleneck in CRISPR adoption for agricultural applications.

BetterSeeds’ use of advanced breeding technologies facilitates a higher success rate in the development of new and improved varieties within a relatively short period, thus requiring the investment of fewer resources per marketable variety.

Ido Margalit, BetterSeeds’ CEO and co-founder said, “CRISPR technology, one of the most important transformative breakthroughs of the 21st century, is still insufficiently applied in agriculture. BetterSeeds is proud to be amongst the pioneering and leading companies in the world applying and making CRISPR accessible to save agriculture, which has been dwindling in most developed countries due to crops’ incompatibility to the current conditions and the challenges facing humanity.”

 CO-FOUNDER and VP R&D Dr. Tal Sherman. (credit: LUZ) CO-FOUNDER and VP R&D Dr. Tal Sherman. (credit: LUZ)

BetterSeeds, formerly known as CanBreed, is led by the company’s co-founders, Margalit and VP R&D Dr. Tal Sherman, together with seed industry professionals who have amassed significant practical experience in the implementation and improvement of gene-editing technology for the design of new crops. BetterSeeds operates state-of-the-art molecular biology and tissue culture labs, together with controlled growth chambers and greenhouses, which enable it to efficiently develop and test its genetic platform. BetterSeeds will apply CanBreed’s know-how to multiple crops, including cocoa, soy, peanuts, cucumbers, tomatoes and black-eyed peas.

Aaron Berdah, BetterSeeds’ president and chairman, said, “BetterSeeds applies its breakthrough scientific accomplishments to additional crops, positioning itself at the forefront of agricultural research and scientific development, which will make it a global leader in adapting crops to the requirements of the next decades.”

Currently employing a vast team of plant science and genetics researchers, BetterSeeds operates a dedicated 1,200 sq.m. (12,000 sq.ft.) facility with labs and growing rooms and a 4,500 sq.m. experimental farm in Givat Chen, in central Israel. 

BetterSeeds’ previous incarnation, CanBreed, uses CRISPR gene-editing technology to provide stable, consistent hybrid hemp seeds and standardized medical-grade cannabis enhanced with essential agronomic traits.

In June 2020, after more than three years of strenuous research and development, CanBreed completed the development of the first uniform homozygous (100% stable) Cannabis parental lines from which the company completed the first true F1 hybrid seed production cycle in the world. These stable hybrids will ensure the reproducibility, standardization, and high quality of raw material for the entire cannabis and hemp industry.

The company further announced that it had purchased, through its wholly owned subsidiary CanBreed Farms Inc., a licensed 3.5-acre Hemp growing and breeding farm in San Diego County in California. A production facility of stable hemp seeds intended for the US market is currently being built at the farm. The farm’s initial output is expected to be about 12.5 million seeds annually, which will subsequently increase substantially. 

Recently, BetterSeeds (formerly CanBreed), which is Smart Agro Fund’s first portfolio company (Smart Agro specializes in Agritech investments and the growth of agritech companies), has closed a $ 2m. investment led by A-Labs Advisory & Finance investment bank via their “12.64 Fund” that primarily invests in upcoming unicorns, as part of a $7m. round of funding. The company’s value reflects an increase of over 300% in under a year of the value from the company’s previous investment round. 

The present funding affirms, again, the trust of the company’s investors in BetterSeeds’ technology, management and vision.

This article was written in cooperation with BetterSeeds.