- Israeli seed-breeding company Equinom closed a Series B funding round that attracted $10 million from BASF Venture Capital of Germany, France's Roquette plant-based ingredients firm, Trendlines Group's Agrifood Fund and Fortissimo Capital of Tel Aviv.
- The new capital will be used to expand the firm's crossbreeding technology to produce non-GMO "smarter seeds" with higher nutritional profiles and crop yields. The company has designed mechanically harvestable sesame seed varieties with more oil content, and CEO Gil Shalev said in a release it plans to introduce a higher-protein pea variety next year.
- Shalev told AgFunder News such innovations can help address increasing demand for the ingredient in plant-based meat and dairy alternatives. Equinom is also working with soybeans, chickpeas, cowpeas, mung beans, fava beans and quinoa.
Equinom, which was founded eight years ago, seems to be well positioned for anticipated growth in the plant-based ingredient segment by targeting the market for optimized seeds with its specialized breeding technology.
According to a release from the Trendlines Group, which made its first investment in the company in this round, Equinom's non-GMO technology uses both bioinformatics-based approaches and traditional crossbreeding techniques to develop strategic seed and legume varieties much more quickly than could be done otherwise. The company said this increases yields, nutritional value and disease resistance — all qualities that have become increasingly important in producing more sustainable food.
This is the sixth round of funding for Equinom, which has raised $17.6 million to date. According to Crunchbase, Roquette, Fortissimo and BASF also took part in previous rounds.
This recurring investment shows confidence in Equinom's direction and output and helped to boost its revenues. CEO Gil Shalev noted in the release the company "enjoyed phenomenal sales growth across four continents in 2019." With an additional $10 million to work with, it's likely to grow even more if its higher-protein pea variety is successful.
Peas have become one of the most popular sources of plant-based protein for meat and dairy alternatives. The U.S. currently makes up the majority of the North American pea protein market, Research and Markets reported. The market value — estimated at $8.3 million in 2018 — is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 10.5% through 2024. Global sales of the protein could quadruple by 2025, thanks to plant-based meat substitutes, so efforts to augment supply will be important.
Peas aren't the only legume Equinom is investing in. Last year, the company said it was developing non-GMO soybeans with higher protein levels. Nearly all soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically modified, and while yields have jumped nearly 60% since 1986, the company said protein content has remained static at about 35%. In contrast, Equinom said its soybeans offer almost 58% protein, or about 50% more than the industry standard.
As the interest in plant-based proteins and non-GMO ingredients trends upward with each passing year, it's a safe bet Equinom will be able to enhance its position in smart seed breeding. And with financial backing from companies like Roquette — which just extended and increased a pea protein supply deal with Beyond Meat and is building a $400 million pea processing plant in Canada — the future looks bright for the Israeli company.