- Israel-based high-tech seed breeding company Equinom closed a $20 million funding round, more than doubling the $17.6 million it had received to date, according to Crunchbase. The round was led by Phoenix, with participation from Fortissimo, BASF, Trendlines and Maverick.
- The company, which uses artificial intelligence to crossbreed the best seeds for food products, plans to use the funds to expand operations in sales, marketing and R&D worldwide.
- Equinom positions itself as an elite crop design firm, but it doesn't use bioengineering. The company plans to have its first product launch — a highly concentrated pea protein — later this year.
Equinom has gone from a company with an idea to a well-known player in the crop improvement space. And this funding will help it go even further.
"With this capital vote of trust from investors, we now have the ability to unleash our products in the market and become a global leader in the agtech space,” founder and CEO Gil Shalev said in a press release.
Currently, Equinom has more than 100,000 acres growing across five continents. The company says it already has millions of dollars of contracts with top food companies. Those are likely to expand as Equinom is able to put itself out in front of manufacturers worldwide.
Equinom has already done some high-profile work, most of which was on sesame seeds. The company worked with PepsiCo-affiliated hummus titan Sabra, helping the company develop a seed variety optimized for tahini that could be grown in the United States. And last month, Equinom announced a partnership with Mexican seed producer and exporter Dipasa to produce a high-protein sesame seed and concentrate for the plant-based foods market.
Equinom's Smarter Pea Protein Concentrate is also likely to put the company on the radar of manufacturers. After all, pea protein is becoming one of the most popular ingredients for plant-based food. Tyler Lorenzen, CEO of pea protein company Puris, told Food Navigator last August that there had been 600 product launches in 2019, and 490 up to that point in 2020. While peas are popular for plant-based applications, the nutritional value of these products can be lacking when compared to meat. Dialing up the nutritional value of pea protein could make these proteins more desirable for manufacturers.
More funding, high-profile partnerships and product launches aren't the only aspects that can help Equinom grow. Its unique database creates customized crops without bioengineering or genetic modification. While gene editing techniques, including CRISPR, are being used by some agtech companies to custom design crops that will better serve consumer needs and desires, there are still people who do not want to eat anything that has been subject to bioengineering.
And with mandatory disclosure for some products using bioengineered ingredients required on most U.S. food products next year, some manufacturers will only consider non-GMO items for their formulations. Not only does Equinom only use cross-breeding to create its plant varieties, but it also brands itself as a non-GMO company. In today's consumer climate, where misconceptions about bioengineering are rampant, this positioning can definitely be beneficial.