Enterprise Europe Network

A new platform for improving crops by developing novel traits and implementing them rapidly

Country of origin:
Country: 
UNITED KINGDOM
Opportunity:
External Id: 
TOUK20200518001
Published
18/05/2020
Last update
27/05/2020
Expiration date
28/05/2021

Keywords

Partner keyword: 
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Genetic Engineering
Micro- and Nanotechnology related to agriculture
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, Animal Husbandry & Related Products
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Summary

Summary: 
A UK SME has developed a crop improvement platform for use on a wide range of species. The platform brings together AI with new genome editing biotechnologies to discover and introduce new traits into crops rapidly. Current projects include developing tomatoes that are better for harvest and transport as well as non-sweetening potato varieties. Crop breeders, seed producers and agri industry are sought for commercial agreements with technical assistance, followed by licensing.

Description

Description: 

A small UK company has developed a platform to solve some of the biggest problems in agriculture today: improving the sustainability of agriculture and making crops more nutritious for consumers. The company was started in 2017 and is based at a world renowned plant research institute.
Artificial selection is still very much a trial-and-error exercise. With vast amounts of genetic and sequence data emerging on plants, one new approach would be ‘directed-trial-and-learn-from-errors’ with computational assistance. The company has proven that this is doable. When one combines AI, accurate single cell manipulation and gene editing tools, the number of iterations to develop a new variety is decreased significantly. Also, the precision of necessary modification of sequences grows exponentially. Within months, desirable traits are achieved that are close to theoretical limits.
The platform is split into two components:
1. A trait discovery element that utilises AI to produce new traits that can be rapidly tested and further improved.
2. A trait introduction element based on DNA free genome editing, making this technology GMO free in many countries outside of the EU. This technology is applicable over a wide variety of species.
Current projects include introducing a trait into a tomato variety to reduce waste. The trait ensures tomatoes won’t fall off the stem prematurely and won’t damage other tomatoes in transit. Another example project is tackling the cold induced sweetening in potatoes. They are using the potato's own genetics to predict and edit the regulatory elements needed to switch this process off only in the cold.
The company is looking for both breeders and producers of commercial crops and the agri industry in a broader sense who are looking for solutions conventional breeding has failed to address. The type of cooperation would be commercial agreement with technical assistance. The partner would state the problem to be solved and fund the development work. The UK company will develop the new trait, with some technical input from the partner probably. Such programmes need an exchange of genotypes and phenotypes to guide the iterations. Upon completion, the new variety will be licensed to the partner.

Advantages & innovations

Cooperation plus value: 
• The platform can solve problems that are quite impractical for traditional selection. • The implementation of new traits takes 12-18 months rather than decades. • The genome editing technology is de-regulated in many countries.

Stage of development

Cooperation stage dev stage: 
Under development/lab tested

Partner sought

Cooperation area: 
Type of partner sought: industry Specific activity of partner sought: crop breeders, seed producers but also buyers of crops (in bulk). Role of partner sought: eventually, to acquire the new varieties under a license agreement. Until then, optionally the partner can get involved in joint development under a commercial agreement with technical assistance.

Type and size

Cooperation task: 
SME 11-50,>500 MNE,251-500,SME 51-250,>500