The current world population has created great challenges to food security and crop production. Given the projected growth in the global population, and factoring in the impact of climate change, environmental stresses will intensify.

Already, agricultural raw materials for products we require and love have been affected. Take, for example, the world’s most beloved treat — chocolate — made from the cacao tree grown mostly in parts of Africa. Such regions are facing unprecedented periods of heat and drought, which current cultivars are not adapted to withstand.

The changing climate is also playing a role in the spread of different plant diseases and pests, as they move into favorable warmer climates and disrupt crop yield, plant quality and sometimes seriously harming whole species. Citrus greening disease, first discovered in Asia, has been found in citrus fruits around the globe and is devastating the industry. Bananas are feared to become extinct as two fatal diseases wiped out many trees and most of the world’s bananas now rely on just one variety.

Even if a plant overcomes the threats it faces, the outcome may lead to low-quality products that unsuitable for the market.

Even though environmental stresses are increasing, we are fortunate that significant technological developments now allow us to apply new potential solutions. As a good example, genomic technologies exploit and analyze data and have led to the revival of many staple crops. Wheat, maize and rice are many years past their first published genomes and, since then, hundreds of new traits have been discovered and have driven breakthroughs in global seed breeding and development of improved varieties.

However, genomic technologies have not yet reached their full potential, especially for the immense global food and beverage industries. Companies are either not sufficiently aware of or have not taken full advantage of the ability to create and analyze genomics data and thus crops such as citrus and cacao have lagged behind.

As a genomics research company, NRGene is collaborating with industry leaders to plan, implement and develop improved varieties that would not only thrive under stressful conditions but possess improved traits such as higher nutritional value and reduced need for pesticide applications. We help product companies breed their raw materials in a smarter and more efficient manner, while accelerating the product design process with better decision-making based on genomics insights and more accurate predictions.

Using NRGene’s advanced genomics technology, combined with its industry experience, one can identify strategic risks facing a given company and help select an optimum breeding route for specific crops. This can allow the food and beverage industry to stay one step ahead of climate threats and global population forecasts.

Yana Voldman

Marketing director at NRGene, Yana holds an Executive MBA from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem with specialization in startup management. Before pivoting into the startup ecosystem and joining NRGene, she spent over a decade in product design and development, and now applying her rich experience into innovative marketing approaches and applications.

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