Breeding for the Future of Controlled Environment Agriculture

Today our portfolio company, Vindara, announced it has been acquired by Kalera (Euronext Growth Oslo ticker KAL, Bloomberg: KSLLF). The pairing of these two companies will enable Vindara to greatly expand its seed research and development programs. As the prevalence and pertinence of controlled environment agriculture (CEA) systems continue to grow we are excited about this partnership and its potential to spur agricultural advancements that increase production yields and produce unique crop varieties to meet evolving consumer demands.


In our recent report Growing Beyond the Hype: Controlled Environment Agriculture, S2G predicts that the U.S. CEA market will grow 5x over the next ten years and lead to differentiated, quality products, cost-competitive pricing and a more resilient, traceable and trustworthy supply chain. But while advances in lighting, sensors, robotics, and planting substrates have enabled CEA to grow by leaps and bounds, seeds developed specifically for the industry have been the ‘missing link’ for these systems to achieve their full potential. Today’s commercial outdoor seeds are bred for resistance to disease and pests and designed for long storage and transportation, traits which are not relevant to indoor growers. The genetic tradeoffs that occurred due to these breeding priorities have resulted in a lack of flavor, color and nutritional value in a lot of modern day produce.


Vindara is the first company to develop seeds specifically designed for use in vertical indoor farm environments as well as other CEA farming methods. By employing genomics, machine learning and computational biology in addition to traditional breeding methods, Vindara is developing new seed varieties that enable CEA operations to capitalize on the potential of their systems for increased yield, product customization, production efficiencies, and shorter growing cycles.

Vindara has developed a seed design system that can deliver any kind of genetic variety and tailor their products to each customer’s needs--all at an extraordinarily fast pace. One of the company’s most astounding achievements thus far has been to shorten the breeding process development time from the standard 5-7 years to just 12-18 months given the more rapid cycles of CEA.

“It is companies like Vindara that are ushering what we believe as the next “golden age of genetics”. As we see food trends and demands continue to evolve, Vindara’s technology will not only confer the agility and precision needed to keep pace with the market but will enable them to introduce novel products that will set a new standard for seed breeding programs in the CEA space.”

- Sanjeev Krishnan, CIO and Managing Director at S2G


While a number of emerging technologies have allowed growers to select crop traits with a level of precision that was unfathomable even a decade ago, they often deploy genetic modification which disqualifies crops from meeting organic standards. Alternatively, Vindara's seed development process is conducted entirely through analytics. The company has assembled the largest database of worldwide produce, tracking thousands of varieties and looking at everything from physical measurements to texture and flavor. The compiled data is used to train machine learning models to accurately predict the genetic underpinnings of entirely new varieties of plants, dialing in precise sets of desired properties.


“This acquisition will enable Vindara to unlock its full potential using its platform to revolutionize the vertical farming industry.” said Dr Lynne Zydowsky, Chief Science Officer for Alexandria Real Estate Equities/Alexandria Venture Investments and Advisor and Chair of the Vindara Board, “Nutritious food is fundamental to human health and we are proud to have played an integral role in the founding and formation of Vindara and support of the development of the company’s growth through acquisition.”


The Vindara team is led by Dr. Jade Stinson who serves as the Chief Scientific Officer, President, and Co-founder at the company. She previously served as Technology management and Head of Global Operations for BASF’s Professional and Specialty Solutions business and as Chief Scientific Officer of the venture development group, AgTech Accelerator where she sourced transformational technologies and provided scientific diligence for investments.

“When we invested in Vindara we invested in a brilliant leader and scientist who we believed could not only make great inroads in seed breeding but expertly apply those innovations to meet market demands.”

- Sanjeev Krishnan, CIO and Managing Director at S2G


Vindara’s seed breeding approach and technology is a key piece in the growth and ultimate ability of CEA to account for a larger portion of our food production and improve food quality, safety, and access while mitigating climate risks. We are thrilled at this achievement and eager to see their future innovation and contributions to the industry. Congratulations to Dr. Jade Stinson and the Vindara and Kalera team on this exciting milestone.

Vindara Announces Acquisition by Kalera

Vindara Announces Acquisition by Kalera

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Katherine Manweiler

Associate

Katherine Manweiler is an Associate at S2G Ventures. Her responsibilities include research, evaluation, and execution of potential investments as well as support of S2G's portfolio companies. Prior to joining S2G, she was a management consultant at Deloitte, specializing in strategy and transformation projects across consumer products and hospitality sectors.

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