Concept: UK’s biotechnology startup Phytoform has developed a new climate-resistant crop technology that enables farmers to tackle the dual problem agriculture faces currently including reducing agricultural emissions and tackling challenges due to climate change. The startup leverages ML and genome editing technologies to develop climate-resistant crops. It currently focuses on developing climate-resistant variants of potato and tomato.

Nature of Disruption: The technology leverages a proprietary ML CRE.AI.TIVE to target small changes in DNA sequences that can impact a wide variety of characteristics including plant health. The startup uses a combination of AI and genomic data to filter through millions of sequences. It uses ML to analyze DNA sequence combinations in plants to identify effective traits. This can identify a trait that could improve a plant’s response to disease or pests. Once the traits are identified, the startup implements them with footprint-free genome editing leveraging microfluidics and tissue culture expertise. It can increase speed to market and achieve scalability by efficiently implementing the trait across a wide variety of species without any transgenes. In potatoes, the startup is working on identifying gene traits that can mitigate the browning and bruising which can reduce the wastage in the supply chain. It claims that its new technology can produce new plant traits in months rather than years at a fraction of the cost of conventional breeding and GMO technologies.

Outlook: Global climatic conditions are changing due to global warming and this can negatively affect the production of crops. Increasing temperatures can reduce global yields of major crops including wheat, rice, maize, and soybean. Phytoform aims to address the effect of changing climate on crops by leveraging its new technology. It claims that the new technology can develop crops that are not affected by the changing climatic conditions. In December 2021, the startup raised $5.7M in funding led by Eniac Ventures with participation from Wireframe Ventures, Fine Structure Ventures, and FTW Ventures. It aims to use the funding to expand its team and expand the capabilities of its new technology. Phytoform is also working on traits for alternative plant proteins and emerging agricultural industries including vertical farming.

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