Equinom, Ltd. is the first seed-breeding company to open an R&D center that houses all vital departments together –biochemistry, applications, sensory, and breeding. The new center will enable these departments to work and communicate synergistically throughout the course of seed breeding and development, resulting in a more efficient and more accurate process.
The new center empowers Equinom to generate source ingredients for the food industry starting at the seed level. This will allow the company to more effectively address the needs of stakeholders (food and ingredient companies) across the supply chain while creating seed solutions from seed-to-table.
The new center, located at Kibbutz Givat Brenner in the agriculturally rich center of Israel, provides end-to-end research and development capabilities to accelerate Equinom’s efforts to develop the next generation of its non-GMO Smarter Seeds boasting exceptional characteristics.
Preserving the old to reshape the future
In an exercise of expansion through preservation, a vintage building was restructured, preserving the original heritage warehouse. “We faced a slew of challenges reshaping an antique warehouse into a modern facility,” confesses Gil Shalev, CEO of Equinom. “But sustainability plays a big part in Equinom’s core values. Our decision to relocate to an old warehouse instead of building an entirely new facility is in line with our commitment to combine traditional treasures with high-tech capabilities.”
The new R&D center, at more than three times the size of Equinom’s original facility, contains all of the company’s development disciplines: agronomics, bioinformatics, biochemistry, and food science. The four state-of-the-art laboratories cover most of the company’s R&D units: seed processing, biochemistry lab, food application lab, and a high-tech sensory lab.
The biochemistry lab adds a second layer of deep analysis of seeds and discovery of their traits. It allows for full analysis of a seed strain’s nutritional profile (protein, oil/fat, fibers, starch etc.) with high-throughput capacity and analysis methodology. This process is unique to Equinom, yielding the minutest details of thousands of lines every season and providing, together with the bioinformation team, a full genotype and phenotype of each crop.
The food application lab is distinctive to Equinom and is crucial for interpreting the needs of the food industry from seed to table. It can directly incorporate food engineering inputs into Equinom’s breeding technology. “Consumers are now demanding clean-label plant-based products,” stresses Itay Dana, VP of Marketing for Equinom. “By discovering appealing textures starting at a seed level for, as an example, meat analogues, we can dramatically reduce the need for extensive processing This means food manufacturers are better able to provide consumers products with cleaner — and clearer — labels. Equinom’s seeds can potentially reduce production cost by almost 40% via fewer ingredients, lower price, reduced need for flavor enhancers, and encouraging strong consumer adoption.”
The new sensory lab includes organoleptic tools for improving the design of tastier food products. By applying an advanced electronic nose (“e-nose”), Equinom can analyze a limitless varieties of seed for thousands of taste compounds, reducing off flavors. This technology, together with an in-house internal sensory panel, also drives the enhancement of desirable flavors through tracing the genetic background of the “good” flavors and merging those genetic traits into the breeding algorithms in a way that the resulting taste will be an intrinsic trait in the seed’s breeding programs. “Introducing the e-nose lets us target desirable traits more accurately and design seeds that produce palate-pleasing products,” adds Shalev. “As a bonus, it also reduces the need for maskers to block unpleasant flavor notes.”
The new facility also includes a seed processing lab with phenotypic analysis that complements the field exploration and analysis. With 4,800 square feet dedicated to seed processing, Equinom is able to increase production up to 50% and accelerate its breeding capabilities. A new, larger climatized seed storage unit hosts Equinom’s legume germplasm collection — the most diverse in the world.
These labs constitute an important and critical tier in guiding the breeding program for the company’s “Smarter Seeds.” The program designs seeds for foods that can satisfy consumer appetites for authentic flavor and indulge the senses with appealing textures and aromas.
In addition to establishing a new facility in Israel, Equinom also opened a new facility in Indianapolis, Indiana for offices and storage. This strategic location helps Equinom better serve its clients in North America and continue its momentum. The new site will store planting seeds of sesame, yellow pea, and soybean (Equinom’s main commercial products) plus function as the Midwest office for the company’s new recruits.
While farmers are expected to feed more people with nutritious food from less land, Equinom utilizes its non-GMO proprietary technology to identify and cultivate better-for-you, crops replete with good flavor. The company is bringing back the quality and genomic diversity in food crops lost or neglected over the past 100 years as the focus of agriculture shifted from cultivation for human consumption to animal feed. Equinom is a leader in breeding food-quality seeds and serving the Equinom’s goals are to reduce the production cost of nutritious and functional plant-based proteins, improving their taste appeal, and promoting plant-based products as a mainstream diet.