- High-tech optimized crop breeder Equinom raised $35 million in a funding round, nearly doubling the company’s lifetime funding to $71 million. The round was led by Synthesis Capital, and had participation from Bunge Ventures, Praesidium, BayWa, CPT Capital and returning investors Fortissimo and Phoenix.
- The funds will be used to get Equinom’s plant-based protein ingredients to a B2B market more quickly. It also will further the development of ultra-high protein soy and pea, hire more employees and increase R&D for new crops such as high-protein chickpea, fava bean, mung bean and cowpea.
- Israel-based Equinom is one of a handful of companies using technology to breed better crops for food. All of Equinom’s ingredients are non-GMO and bred using traditional processes.
Equinom spent the last year improving the yellow pea to have a 75% protein content. In September, the company partnered with AGT Ingredients to co-create several minimally processed plant protein offerings to improve the taste, nutrition, accessibility and carbon footprint of a variety of foods and beverages.
This funding round gives Equinom the chance to improve on the final products that will be available through AGT, as well as the opportunity to broaden its portfolio.
So far, Equinom has worked on yellow pea, soybean and sesame seeds. As the company’s custom-bred crops proliferate and its ingredients become available on a more widespread basis, food manufacturers will be looking for higher protein versions of other common plant-based ingredients. It makes sense for Equinom to take steps to provide them.
“With this additional investment, we will be able to deliver our message, and our next generation, non-GMO
ingredients to food companies who are ready to unlock category growth by delivering tastier, healthier,
sustainable and affordable food options to every plate in the world,” Gil Shalev, Equinom’s co-founder and CEO, said in a statement.
Equinom uses a technology platform called Manna, which takes advanced algorithms to figure out the biochemical and genomic traits of different crop varieties. Using that information, Equinom breeds crops that are optimized for different aspects of food and food ingredients, including nutritional content, taste, color and physical performance.
It takes several growing seasons to create the best varieties because the company does not use CRISPR or other systems to directly change the genetics of the plants. Avichai Amrad, who is now Equinom’s pulses project manager, said in a previous interview that his company’s technology reduces the time to optimize pea breeding from about seven years to four or five years.
Several companies have already partnered with Equinom.
Last year, it partnered with European milling operator GoodMills on ingredients Equinom says will have diminished off-flavors and will be better textured for meat and dairy alternatives, as well as pasta. Equinom also has an ingredient supplying agreement with plant-based meat maker Meatless Farm, which receives a pea protein that Equinom says has 50% more protein and reduces Meatless Farm’s carbon footprint.
Hummus maker Sabra also partnered with Equinom on an upgraded sesame seed. The seed bred by Equinom is said to be optimized for tahini through its sugar, protein and moisture levels. In addition, Dipasa, a Mexico-based seed producer and exporter, is working with Equinom to make a high-protein sesame seed concentrate for the plant-based food market.