J.R. Simplot Company and Plant Sciences Inc. Forge Strategic Alliance on Gene Editing of Strawberries

October 28, 2021

Potential benefits for growers and consumers include less food waste and improved yields

BOISE, Idaho, Oct. 28, 2021 -- The J.R. Simplot Company announced today it has entered a strategic alliance with Plant Sciences Inc. (PSI), a Watsonville, CA-based plant breeding company, to drive new breeding techniques for strawberries, including gene editing.

Simplot and PSI have been collaborating since 2011 on multiple new breeding technologies and expect to launch the first commercially available, gene edited strawberry in the coming years. The partnership provides both companies with the increased ability to bring improved strawberries to market with Simplot’s technology and PSI’s germplasm and leadership.

Image of a strawberry plant

The strawberry market is prime for innovation. Each year, approximately 35 percent of fresh strawberries are discarded by consumers because of waste from poor storage or short shelf life (Yuwei Qin and Arpad Horvath 2021 Environ. Res. Lett. 16 014024). Using new breeding techniques like CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing tools in strawberry development is anticipated to improve shelf life and significantly reduce such waste.

Under the Simplot-PSI strategic alliance, Simplot will use pioneering gene editing technologies to advance strawberry characteristics. PSI will provide its proprietary strawberry germplasm, plant growing expertise, and lead the commercialization of successful varieties.  

"At Simplot, we’re excited to participate in a project that may help growers achieve higher yields on less land, resulting in fewer pesticides and reduced water and labor needs, all while extending the quality of a consumer's favorite foods," said Susan Collinge PhD, Vice President of Simplot Plant Sciences.  

CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing tools can be used to introduce modest changes to a plant’s own genome. In 2020, the USDA clarified certain regulatory exemptions with plants produced through innovative, new breeding techniques, including genome editing techniques.

“We are highly motivated to build on our learnings with the J.R. Simplot Company and fully expect to make a profound impact on the strawberry industry by offering better varieties with qualities that both growers and consumers will celebrate,” said Steve Nelson, President and CEO of PSI. 

In 2018, Simplot executed a joint intellectual property licensing agreement with Corteva Agriscience™, and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard for foundational CRISPR-Cas9 and related gene editing tools.

Simplot previously brought to market two generations of its Innate®- branded potato varieties by adapting genes from wild and cultivated potatoes featuring reduced black spots, reduced asparagine, lower sugars, and protection from late blight pathogens. 

About Simplot

The J.R. Simplot Company is a family-owned, privately held global food and agriculture company headquartered in Boise, Idaho. Its integrated portfolio includes food processing and food brands, phosphate mining, fertilizer manufacturing, farming, ranching and cattle production, and other enterprises related to agriculture. Simplot has major operations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Australia, and China, with products and services available to customers worldwide. For more information, visit www.simplot.com.

About Plant Sciences, Inc.

Committed to Advancing Agriculture through Science™, PSI has emerged as a premier agricultural research company with emphasis on plant breeding and propagation of berry crops for the global marketplace. PSI and its affiliates hold more than 50 plant patents and plant breeder’s rights certificates for proprietary strawberry and raspberry varieties and supply plants to leading growers in over 50 countries. PSI is also aggressively preparing for its first commercial releases of proprietary blackberry and blueberry varieties. PSI believes the most competitive berry varieties provide effective defense against agronomic threats, while prioritizing buyer and consumer expectations for flavor, appearance, and shelf life. Learn more about PSI at www.plantsciences.com.

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