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  • By Lynda Kiernan-Stone, Global AgInvesting Media

Biotech Company Amfora Raises $6M to Enhance Nutritional Density of Soybeans and Other Crops

Amfora, a California-based biotechnology company using gene editing to raise the protein density in soybeans and other crops, has closed on a $6 million Series B backed by Leaps by Bayer and Spruce Capital Partners.


With a mission to fuel the plant-based protein revolution by meeting the world’s growing demand for high-protein foods, Amfora is using cutting-edge technologies to enhance the nutritional density of food and feed crops, while also reducing the cost of foods and the toll on the environment inflicted by their production.

Through its platform, the company is applying technologies to develop a pipeline of products that not only meet protein demand, but do it while increasing sustainability. With this in mind, Amfora has identified soy as its first scalable, low-cost, high-density protein source for plant-based replacements of animal proteins.


“Meeting the rapidly growing demand for a sustainable protein supply is a key focus area for Leaps by Bayer,” said Juergen Eckhardt, M.D., head of Leaps by Bayer. “Our investment in Amfora underscores our belief in the importance of moving from more to better in plant protein production, as well as enhancing global food security while reducing the carbon footprint of agriculture.”


Using gene editing, Amfora is able to regulate a genetic switch that controls the balance between protein and carbohydrates in all crops. By keeping this switch “on”, crops produce and store more protein and less starch or fiber in their seeds.


“Amfora is using cutting-edge technologies to address the important challenges of food security, climate change, and growing consumer demands for protein-rich foods,” said Ganesh Kishore, managing partner, Spruce Capital Partners, and a founder of Amfora. “In addition to its investment, Bayer’s global footprint, scientific expertise, and market savvy will aid in accelerating Amfora’s leveraging its foundational plant-based protein platform.”


This ability to increase the protein content of crops will in-turn cut the need for fertilizers, making crops developed by Amfora not only more nutritious for humans and animals, but better for the environment, too.


“Our protein-rich crops will enable the manufacturers of plant-based meat, dairy, and seafood to meet the growing consumer demand for their products at lower costs while allowing them to take meaningful steps to address the climate crisis,” said Lloyd Kunimoto, CEO of Amfora.


“The proceeds from this financing will also allow us to begin to move forward with the development of crops in addition to soy, such as rice and wheat with improved nutritional profiles that will help to combat the global epidemics in obesity and diabetes while addressing the global crisis in food security and human nutritional needs.”


Forecasts state that global protein consumption is expected to climb at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.7 percent, reaching 943 million tons by 2054, according to Lux Research. Of this, less than 1 percent is currently derived from non-animal sources, however, experts, including the UN FAO, predict that demand for non-animal-based protein has the potential to account for between 10 and 20 percent of growing demand, which would translate to the need for as much as 200 million tons of plant protein per year.


Knowing this, Amfora is not the only company targeting higher protein content in crisps - however, not all are using gene editing.


Benson Hill leverages Cloud Biology®, or the combination of data science, machine learning, AI techniques, biology, and genomics, to unlock nature’s genetic diversity in plants to create varieties that are healthier and more functional than what currently exist.


The company manifests this through CropOS™, its platform that uses proprietary phenotyping, predictive breeding, and environmental modeling algorithms to make Cloud Biology® actionable, and together with collaborations fosters the accelerated and precise development of more sustainable feed, food, and ingredient options for consumers, and stronger crops for farmers.


And in March of this year, Benson Hill announced its plans to release new ultra-high protein soybean varieties for the 2021 season that will be the first commercially available soybeans to effectively replace soy protein concentrate via traditional soybean crushing.


The launch of the varieties, which offer better digestibility, heart-healthy omega fatty acids, and higher protein that serve the plant-based food, healthy oils, animal feed, and aquaculture markets, were developed using traditional breeding methods, allowing non-GMO certification and unrestricted use in the U.S. and export markets such as the EU.


- Lynda Kiernan is editor with GAI Media, and is managing editor and daily contributor for Global AgInvesting’s AgInvesting Weekly News and Agtech Intel News, as well as HighQuest Group's Oilseed & Grain News. She can be reached at lkiernan@globalaginvesting.com.

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Lynda Kiernan-Stone is Editor with HighQuest Group Media and of the Oilseed & Grain News. If you would like to submit a contribution for consideration, please contact Ms. Kiernan-Stone at lkiernan-stone@highquestgroup.com.