Imagine a genetics company approaching the pharmaceutical industry and announcing that it can predict the next Covid-19 variant based on Big Data analysis of the virus’s DNA. Such a discovery would have enabled a pharma company to develop a vaccine in advance of the virus’s variant spread.
NRGene offers a similar solution for agricultural companies that must deal on a daily basis with many challenges: diseases destroying acres of crops, weather-related damage, low yields etc. The Company develops and commercializes cutting-edge AI based genomic tools to advance breeding processes of plants and animals. NRGene's novel technology allows its customers the advantage of accelerated development of new varieties that can withstand these challenges and allow farmers to benefit from higher yields and quality and at lower costs.
“Genomics solutions are the right and the most effective ones for many agricultural challenges.” says Dr. Gil Ronen, the CEO and founder of NRGene. “We know in advance the genetic content of each variety: its predicted yield rate, its levels of protein, its color and disease resistance. Our technology can derive this information at a relatively low cost. When a crop is exposed to damage, for example, our Big Data analysis can develop a more resilient variety by identifying the region in its DNA responsible for this resistance and then implementing this region in the DNA sequencing of the desired seed. This is applied not only to plants grown for food, but also to trees for paper and rubber and in any agricultural crop. The genetic sequence of the crop determines its yield levels and revenues. In addition, we’ve also worked on many animals such as bovine, fish and others. Our technology is relevant for all living organisms.”
As an example, Dr. Ronen refers to the tomato. Currently there is a tomato virus spreading worldwide and damaging full greenhouses, significantly harming the yield. The virus is so severe that it is not only affecting the fruit but also penetrating the seeds. Through a collaboration with Philoseed, a wild tomato variety resistant to the virus was identified and, based on it, both companies are developing seeds and genetic markers that will enable seed companies to implement this resistance into their commercial varieties. NRGene has already signed five agreements with companies that will apply the resistance trait in their varieties.
Another example is a project in the alternative protein industry, focusing on developing a special flour mixing pea and hemp for manufacturing meat substitute products.
Overall, in the six years since its commercialization, NRGene conducted about 300 projects with 100 customers located in 30 countries. Among its customers are companies from different verticals, such as agriculture, food, beverages, oil, paper, rubber, cannabis, and others.
Significantly multiplying revenues
“We’ve developed unique expertise in revealing genetic information hidden in DNA, through analysis of Big Data”, says Dr. Ronen. Within a few years and a small investment of $11 million, we became the leading provider of genomics solutions for agriculture. Today, after raising $30 million through an IPO in the Tel Aviv stock exchange, we can expand our solutions into the field of genetic testing. Now we are not limited to just providing our customers with a required analytical solution, but also perform the testing for them. Genetic tests are an additional revenue channel for the company. Another fact that significantly increases our potential profit is the shift in our business mode. Previously, we provided our customers with highly valuable solutions that significantly increased their success rates, but our financial return from a one-time sale did not reflect the value we gave to the client. Therefore, we are now offering our customers the opportunity to become our partners: Do you have a genomic challenge? Let’s work together to develop a new and improved variety - no matter if it’s a peanut, wheat or a dairy cow. If successful, NRGene will receive royalties from the sales of this new product. Customers appreciate this approach as they don’t have to pay significant amounts upfront and because they realize that if we are willing to be partners then the chances of succeeding are high. Our hundreds of successful projects are testimony to this. Our clients know that NRGene’s technology produces high quality results in a relatively short time. And when the project succeeds, our revenues can multiply by 100 times as compared to our former business model.”
Where are most of your customers located?
“Most of our customers are in North America – the US and Canada, but there are also many in Europe and Asia. Israel is a tiny market with only 1% of all our customers. That’s why we recently expanded our North American team. NRGene’s current workforce is able to take care of dozens of projects each year and at the same time seeking for new opportunities and major challenges where solving them will be most valuable. Modern agriculture faces many challenges with almost all commercial crops but not every company knows how to deal with them. Our advantage is in the ability to analyze Big Data. Now we just need to assess which solutions will bring our clients and NRGene the highest value and then focus on those.”