Bits x Bites News

Why Bits x Bites Doubles Down on Gene Editing Company Tropic Biosciences

The conventional approach to addressing crop diseases is to spray chemicals. Now the shortcomings of these industrial agricultural practices are impossible to ignore. There is an acute urgency to develop alternative solutions. If we don’t, excessive use of chemicals will continue to choke soil nutrients, threaten bee populations and the surrounding ecosystem, and worsen the occupational hazard for producers in the field.

That’s why Bits x Bites is so excited to follow on our previous investment and invest in the Series B of Tropic Biosciences, led by Singaporean sovereign fund Temasek. 

Tropic Biosciences leverages CRISPR gene editing technology to develop non-GMO crops to mitigate problems embedded in plant breeds, starting with bananas. 

Bananas are uniquely susceptible to disease threats. This is because a single Cavendish variety with identical genetics represents over 99% of global exports. So when fungal infection like the Panama disease Tropical Race 4 (TR4) hits, it becomes a global threat to banana supplies. 

In fact, since its discovery in the 1990s, TR4 has spread to Southeast Asia, Australia, Middle East, and Africa. Most recently, it landed in Latin America, where bananas are a fundamental source of nutrients and livelihood for so many producers. In China, banana plantations in Guangdong, Hainan, and Yunnan also suffer from the havoc of TR4. 

Using CRISPR combined with its proprietary GEiGS™ technology platform, Tropic develops non-GMO banana seedlings with boosted immunity against TR4 as well as Black Sigatoka—a leaf-spot disease that can cut a tree’s production in half. Tropic is also working on traits to address other pain points in the supply chain, such as varieties of banana with longer shelf lives, alongside lines of coffee with reduced caffeine and increased solubility to reduce chemical processing. 

Tropic’s technology to cut down chemical inputs directly speaks to a hotspot in Chinese agriculture. Chemical use on Chinese farms is 2.5 times the global average per acre of land. And since Tropic’s solution is GMO free, it could have a relatively simpler regulatory pathway. 

Tropic raised $28.5 million in its Series B. In addition to lead investor Temasek, the round also includes Sumitomo Corporation Europe, Genoa Ventures, Agronomics, and Skyviews Life Science. All institutional investors from the 2018 Series A participated in this round. They include Pontifax AgTech, Five Seasons Ventures, Tekfen Ventures, Emerald Technology Ventures, Bits x Bites, and the UK Science & Innovation Seed Fund. 

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