In this way, the technology can achieve better nutritional composition and profitability across the supply chain, according to ZeaKal.
PhotoSeed increased oil composition by up to 17% and protein by up to 7%, based on dry weight, at multiple field locations in the United States where soybeans are produced – with constant yields comparable to modern strains, the startup said.
Building on the previously released data, the Agtech-focused company said its 2020 studies show that its technology yielded better carbon sequestration and better nutritional composition in a year the industry was seeing all-time soy protein levels. “This year’s data shows that with PhotoSeed we went one step further to decouple the 2: 1 inverse genetic relationship between protein and oil, which has been an industry recognized sacrifice,” said Greg Bryan, CTO of ZeaKal.
Consistent results across multiple regions and growing seasons suggest that the technology can deliver higher returns on existing land for farmers, processors and end users, he added.
Traditionally, increasing oil or protein has meant sacrificing the other or decreasing the yield. This is because soybean oil and protein have historically had an inverse relationship: if oil increases by 1%, protein decreases by 2%, and improvements in composition typically have a yield penalty. Over time, when growers prioritized yield, the result was a decrease in protein.
However, biotechnology claims that PhotoSeed decouples the inverse oil-protein relationship. It increases both by-products in plants while maintaining the yields that growers demand.
Trait technology helps plants – rice, corn, soy, or sugar cane – capture more carbon and sunlight, resulting in nutrient-rich foods and animal feeds, but with a smaller ecological footprint. With this nutrient density benefit, the company claims PhotoSeed soy can increase cash crush margins for processors.
Structural shifts in the soybean segment.
Today, the R&D pipelines of several leading soybean seed producers have prioritized yield and agronomy only, which often come at the expense of the composition valued by soybean processors and end users, the technology provider said. However, as global demand for vegetable oils and protein continues to rise and production is exceeding at an unprecedented rate, the yield alone will no longer be sufficient to sustainably meet this demand.
Former Bunge Procurement Director Gordon Denny, who is a member of the ZeaKal Advisory Board and also advises the United Soybean Board and the US Soybean Export Council, said: “Leading indicators suggest that the global soybean market is undergoing major structural changes. Even if we focus on protein, the pressure on oil is more urgent. Without new technologies like PhotoSeed that can fairly deliver the desired grain composition, the food system will have a hard time responding to the demand for high energy and nutritional crops without putting great pressure on food security and prices over the next decade. “
According to several experts in the soybean industry, the percentage of gross processing margin attributable to oil versus flour increases dramatically from its typical range of 30 to 33%, even though it is only about 18% of its weight. In the past few months, soybean oil has grown to over 40% and is expected to soon reach 50% of its bean value. In emerging markets, where soybean oil prices have doubled, the effects of inflation and rising food costs are already being felt. By increasing oil and protein, PhotoSeed can create a more profitable way to compact your diet while keeping food prices stable, according to ZeaKal.
Financing, marketing .
The startup raised $ 15 million in a Series C financing round in September 2019. It was led by Agtech Funds, Finistere Ventures, Middleland Capital and Canopy Rivers.
Its technology is now approaching commercialization. Soybeans grown with PhotoSeed by ZeaKal will be available to U.S. farmers in the 2024 growing season.