BetterSeeds: Adapting today’s crops for the challenges of tomorrow by Providing Growers With Genetically Superior Seeds Through Gene-Editing Technology

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Ido Margalit, Founder & CEO, BetterSeeds

Developing New and Improved Crop Varieties

BetterSeeds applies gene-editing CRISPR technology to develop new, improved varieties of crops, incorporating game-changing traits which are not available today across all crops due to the limitations of conventional breeding. NBTs (New Breeding Technologies) or most notably CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing make precise and rapid breeding possible by introducing specific and pre-selected changes in the plant genome, facilitating a higher success rate in the development of new and improved varieties within a relatively short period of time.“This scientific breakthrough will most likely change the world of agriculture in the short, medium, and long term. Eight years ago, we realized that agriculture was going to focus on the improvement of plants based on this technology. That’s when we decided we would improve staple crops with CRISPR,” asserts Margalit.

The genetic traits that BetterSeeds are developing will enable automated harvesting, better nutritional values, higher resistance to the changing global climate conditions, transforming multi-seasonal crops to single-seasons, and  yields. These traits will provide growers more flexibility  and allow diversifying their crops rotation accompanied by more cost-efficient growing and harvesting.

Successful Journey of BetterSeeds

Many of today’s crops lack crucial agronomic traits, such as automated harvesting, better nutritional values, higher resistance to the changing global climate conditions, and more. Conventional breeding, including marker assisted breeding, has exhausted its capability to provide solutions for this problem either due to technological limitations or lack of genetic diversity of target crops.

To help solve this industry-wide problem, BetterSeeds, a pioneering Israeli genetic seeds company came to the forefront in 2017 by two industry veterans IdoMargalit and Tal Sherman. Initially, it was quite challenging for the entrepreneur duo to convince the  investors that their idea to implement CRISPR technology in crops to improve plants is actually possible. Back in 2017, it was no less than a dream as CRISPR technology was hardly known. But later, when Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their groundbreaking work on CRISPR technology, it paved the way for the emergence of CRISPR as the most powerful gene-editing tool. 

CRISPR-how it works?

To simplify, CRISPR is a set of molecular scissors that can cut DNA in a defined location. This cut can deactivate the the targeted gene which means we can express the trait we need, if, we know the genes controlling that trait. It allows a more efficient breeding process and getting the trait deployed in the breeding population. BetterSeeds uses CRISPR without inserting any foreign genes into the plant genome, therefore it will be regulated as non-GMO.

Cannabis stable seeds as propagation material

BetterSeeds is now a leader in both developing the first-ever fully stable and uniform cannabis seeds and using the breakthrough new breeding technology based on CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing to incorporate the much-needed unique agronomical traits in Cannabis. It is the first Cannabis company in the world to commercially license the patented CRISPR gene-editing technology. With this unique combination of stable seeds and CRISPR technology, BetterSeeds is able to offer growers top-quality 100% stable Cannabis and Hemp seeds which solve their cultivation challenges and enable the production of uniform and consistent Cannabis and Hemp raw material for the entire industry.

Cannabis legalization continues apace with governments across the globe now recognizing its unique medicinal properties. However, there are some inherent challenges in growing plants like cannabis due to its genetic instability, reaction to humidity, and the fact it is indeterminate — it never stops growing. Besides this, the cannabis agriculture industry also has excessive taxation, lack of uniformity and standardization. This leads to high productions costs which restrict growers’ profits.

BetterSeeds started producing stable and consistent hybrid hemp and Cannabis seeds at its home-farms for standardized medical-grade cannabis and high quality CBD. It provides the Cannabis and Hemp growers with the needed solution that maintains consistency, uniformity, and profitability of growing the raw material. While BetterSeeds’ is one of first companies to apply  CRISPR technology to Cannabis, the founders decided to apply its breakthrough scientific accomplishments to additional crops and rebrand the company. With the rebranding of BetterSeeds, they turned their attention to commodity crops, particularly, vegetables, perennial crops cow peas and other legumes.

Contributing To Agricultural Sustainability

Advancing into the future, the company aims to address the growing concerns in the agriculture sector such as climate changes, food shortage, and global caloric deficiency. With global population growth, diminished availability of farming lands, frequent economic and climate changes, and various technological limitations, producing better crops and feeding the world has become an uphill task.  Another major challenge that the world of agriculture is facing is that it is simply not profitable enough. Fields are dying in the developed world and farmers across the globe are struggling to grow and sell crops. As a result, food shortage and global caloric deficiency are already here. BetterSeeds aims to solve these problems and contribute to agricultural sustainability through its technology. “We believe our technology enables us to help solve those problems sustainably, without expanding natural resources like water and arable land. This is our task,” concludes Margalit.

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