In this Issue
from the CEO
I am pleased to share with you our new informational newsletter. In it, you will find updates on our collaborations with different seed partners and on the progress made with our EP™ technology in our focus crops. Also, this newsletter will provide you with the opportunity to get to know better some members of our team that make Kaiima a great place to work.
It’s a fascinating time to work in the seed industry, and the Ag industry, in general. While the consolidation that started over the last year suggests that the challenges we face are not short term in nature, new and exciting technology developments promise to enhance the grower's toolbox to improve crop productivity.
At Kaiima, we are pleased to contribute to the Ag innovation ecosystem that provides solutions to our seed company partners and are excited about the results we are seeing from our EP™ technology platform, as well as its future applications.
Rick Greubel, CEO
Breaking the Genetic Diversity Barrier
Diversity is the variance in genetic and phenotypic characteristics of plants used in agriculture. Maintaining genetic diversity within species is important for the crop’s ability to adapt to changing environmental challenges and diseases. Much of the increase in food production in the last 50 years comes from improved varieties achieved through plant breeding that harnessed the benefits of genetic diversity.
Today, as breeders are pressured to develop new and improved genetics each year, and as breeding and selection becomes more complex in order to meet the needs of modern, large-scale agriculture, some superior plant characteristics are preserved and some are lost. In fact, as elite commercial varieties are developed, they are done so from an increasingly narrowing genetic pool.
“We cross good lines with good lines in the hopes of getting better lines, but that means we discard other genes and don’t always know what those genes do,” says Rex Bernardo, professor and endowed chair in corn breeding and genetics at the University of Minnesota, who gave the keynote speech, “Philosophy and Practice of Utilizing Genetic Diversity in Plant Breeding” at the 2015 annual meeting of the National Association of Plant Breeders. “We need to push grain yields more and more as the world’s population grows, and we need genetic diversity to do that.”
Addressing this challenge over the last few decades, seed companies have acquired businesses with diverse germplasm pools– to the tune of more than $10B. In today’s consolidated seed market, that option no longer remains. Biotechnological developments (such as GMOs) brought new agronomic traits to plants that provide great value to growers, but do not address the inherent genetic potential of the crop. New breeding techniques on the horizon promise great innovation, but have yet to be proven.
By 2050, the global population will rise to more than 9 billion people and we will need to increase food production by 70%. How do we continue to break the genetic diversity barrier in order to develop new, elite varieties that will meet this challenge?
EP™ technology creates high-performing lines by inducing genetic diversity within the genome, using the plant’s own DNA. The technology provides enhanced traits such as yield, improved tolerance to biotic and abiotic stress, as well as additional agronomic benefits.
Results from Key Collaborations in the US, EU and China
In 2016, the EP™ technology was evaluated in corn across three continents. In total, over 130 trial sites were planted across the US, EU and China, with EP™ hybrids evaluated against their isogenic control hybrid (original germplasm received from our partners). From each market, EP™ versions exhibited yield advantages of up to 8-10% over the control, further validating the benefits of the technology.
The EP™ material tested varied in development phase - from the first year of testing to pre-commercial testing (as part of that market’s variety registration process).
In an exciting development for Kaiima, 2016 marked the first year that our partners also tested the EP™ material for disease tolerance, specifically for Goss’s Wilt and for Northern Corn Leaf Blight. Initial results were favorable; in several cases, showing over 20% improved tolerance to these diseases (statistically significant). Additional validation trials will take place by our partners in 2017.
Exceed the Seed Symposium
On December 6, 2016, Kaiima’s senior leadership presented at the Exceed the Seed Symposium in Chicago, IL. The Symposium was sponsored by AgriThority and featured insights on the latest innovations in the industry. This symposium was tied to the American Seed Trade Association annual conference which Kaiima attends each year.
The materials presented at the Symposium can be viewed at this link.
On September 20, 2016, Kaiima hosted in Israel the Club Demeter delegation from France. Club Demeter is composed of senior level Ag industry representatives from leading companies in France, from upstream to downstream players.
Several France-based seed companies were in attendance and Kaiima is actively exploring collaborations with them. Kaiima is excited to work with European-based partners and to leverage EP™ technology’s non-GMO classification to bring added value to that market.
In November 2016, Kaiima and Horizon Ag announced a research collaboration to develop new and improved rice varieties for the US market. Initiated in 2015, the project combines US adapted germplasm sourced by Horizon Ag and Kaiima's EP™ platform.
The initial development phases were recently completed and the new EP™ rice candidates are entering first year evaluation trials in 2017 in several locations across the US rice growing belt.
Kaiima is also involved in additional collaborations with other rice partners, in earlier phases of development.
Meet the Team
Name: Ori Ben Herzel
Position: Commercial Breeding Lead
Years at Kaiima: 5
Location: Recently relocated to Kaiima’s St. Louis (USA) branch
Tell us more about your position…
The breeding team is responsible for carrying out and running commercial projects which use Kaiima’s EP™ technology. My team and I are engaged with our commercial partners, and we coordinate every project stage with all the other departments at Kaiima. My team is responsible for the development of our current product, and is highly involved in research and discovery of Kaiima’s future technologies.
What do you like about your work at Kaiima?
I love to be involved in a team that makes a difference and develops new technologies which no one else thought about before. Few of our current projects are designed to solve some of the most significant obstacles in plant breeding, agriculture and food. Working with other breeders is always fun, and the people at Kaiima are the best people and friends to work with. The best part is the opportunity to work with people, plants and genes all together.
A little about your background…
I completed my studies and research on plant development at Hebrew University, and started my career as a vegetable breeder. I joined the vegetable division at Kaiima initially, as a cucurbits breeder. A few years later I was put in charge of our corn breeding program and that transitioned to leading Kaiima’s breeding team. As a breeder, I have developed several commercially successful tomato and cucumbers hybrids.
My wife and I moved to St. Louis last summer. The move was quite a challenging experience for the family, but we soon started to like it. It’s funny to hear my 6-year-old daughter yelling at her brothers: “stap!” (Stop) in a perfect Midwestern accent.
In my free time (usually during travel, driving, and when trying to get the kids to sleep) I play chess online, listen to metal music, as well as some podcasts on history and politics.