BASF invests in growing demand for plant-based products

23 December 2019


BASF Venture Capital is the lead investor in a funding round for Israeli AgTech start-up Equinom, experts in plant genomics and breeding. Equinom’s computerised breeding technology provides optimised seeds for the food industry to help meet the growing demand for plant-based products used as ingredients or in clean label packed goods and healthier lifestyle cuisines. With this investment, BASF Venture Capital promotes its strategy of applying innovative solutions in agriculture.

Equinom’s breeding expertise and approach are changing the market for plant-based food applications, such as meat alternatives. The company is introducing high-protein legumes, such as soybeans, peas, chickpeas, cowpeas, mung beans, fava beans and quinoa. Soybeans and peas, for example, are key to meat alternatives, and Equinom’s high-protein varieties deliver taste, texture and other differentiating benefits. Their higher protein content can also make the production of meat substitutes, such as veggie burgers or sausages, more cost-effective than other alternatives.

Existing investors who also joined this round include, Fortissimo Capital, a leading Israeli private equity fund that invests primarily in the technology, AgTech and industrial sectors. Also joining was Roquette, a player in plant-based ingredients for food, nutrition and health markets as well as new vegetal proteins.

Equinom’s bioinformatics-based technology accelerates seed breeding, achieving new levels of efficiency. “We strategically crossbreed plants for targeted characteristics, often reintroducing important characteristics that have been inadvertently bred out of ordinary varieties to produce crops with highly desirable traits,” explains Gil Shalev, CEO of Equinom. “Our proprietary computer algorithm and big data meet crop yield, quality and trait objectives in a way that no other seed-breeding company has done before, which also cuts time to market by years.”

The Equinom algorithm analyses the genomic characteristics from its database of thousands of plants to determine the ideal breeding combination to achieve the desired properties. The system evaluates millions of possible combinations to design optimised seeds that focus on protein, oil or nutrient content, seeds’ functionality, plant yield, disease resistance and other qualities.

The company then uses the conventional method to crossbreed the plants whose genetic codes complement each other best. Using this technology and approach, the start-up selectively optimises varieties targeted to food producers’ needs, by creating an application-based solution.

Equinom also offers high-oil-content sesame that enables flexible cultivation options. Shatter-resistant sesame, one of Equinom’s flagship crops, can be harvested mechanically and grown around the world. This allows farmers to grow locally to meet the rising demand for this customised oilseed, which produces some of the highest oil content in the industry and is rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Equinom says its sesame sets the ground for the advancement of a more responsible supply chain, greater price stability and cost-effective growth.

“This is our first investment in an Israeli company,” says Markus Solibieda, Managing Director of BASF Venture Capital. “Equinom’s technology is groundbreaking in the plant protein value chain and supports the rising trend towards meat alternatives. With this investment in Equinom, we are strongly boosting BASF’s strategy of optimising crops and promoting sustainability and healthy food to nourish the planet.”

Published by Foodingredientsfirst on December 13, 2019
Image from Shutterstock


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