By Michele F. Mihaljevich
ATLANTA, Ind. – Beck’s and Inari will work together on their common goal of bringing gene editing technology to farmers, representatives of both companies said last week.
“The combination of Inari’s novel predictive design and advanced multiplex gene editing technology with Beck’s established corn research and breeding program will increase product testing capabilities and expand both companies’ capacity for innovation,” the companies said in a statement.
Family-owned Beck’s, based in Atlanta, was founded in 1937 and is the nation’s third largest seed brand. Inari, a plant breeding technology company, is based in Cambridge, Mass., and was founded in 2016 by Flagship Pioneering.
Gene editing allows for traits such as improved stress tolerance to be available to farmers in less time, Tom Koch, Beck’s breeding manager, told Farm World. “The main benefit (of gene editing) is that it speeds up the time it takes to get to a change. I can get there with lots of research; this just gets to the farmer faster. We’re not looking to create something new but just do it faster.”
With multiplex gene editing, many changes may be made at one time, he explained. “Genes don’t operate in a vacuum. If you make one change, you may have what you want. But this allows for multiple – 10, 12, 15 – changes. And it’s not just the technology of making the edit, but where do you edit.”
For its part of the collaboration, Beck’s will focus on corn, Koch said. Inari is also working on soybeans and other crops, he added.
Koch hopes gene editing technology will be available to farmers by mid-decade. The first technology to hit the market will improve stress tolerance and allow farmers to grow with less nitrogen, less inputs and less water, he said. “Weather plays such a huge role in agriculture. Anything we can do to help the farmer. Yield and stability – that’s the biggest way this will benefit farmers.
“The jury is still out (on the technology) because it hasn’t been seen in farmer fields yet,” Koch explained. “But all indications are that this can be a game-changing technology.”
Scott Beck, president of Beck’s, said, “We are fully invested in continued research and development, and by partnering with Inari, we have a unique opportunity to be a part of their cutting-edge multiplexing platform. We see the benefits of gene editing and how important it is for farmers to have access to greater diversity in the products they rely on for their livelihood.”
Inari has two operations in Indiana – a seed foundry at Purdue Research Park in West Lafayette and a research farm outside the city.
“Pushing the boundaries of what is possible and addressing the current and future challenges facing farmers requires innovation and collaboration,” said Ponsi Trivisvavet, Inari CEO. “We are committed to partnering with industry leaders like Beck’s in order to expand product development using our predictive design and advanced multiplex gene editing technologies.”