Seed World

Logan Skori is Unleashing the Potential of Plants to Make Protein

Logan Skori leads Calgary-based AgGene as its chief executive officer.

Plant-based protein is a big deal, and researchers are going about boosting the protein value of crops to meet a demand that is growing by leaps and bounds. Fun fact: one of those researchers is doing it in his garage!

Logan Skori is one of the people at the forefront of this. At just 30 years old, he leads Calgary-based AgGene as its chief executive officer. Skori was raised on a grain farm and has experience in the ag sector previously working as a crop production advisor for Nutrien.

He says he spent a lot of his life riding in the combine and seeing yield loss and crop damage in the field. That motivated him to pursue a PhD in plant developmental biology at the University of Calgary, which he is currently working on.

AgGene, which he co-founded, is focused on using new plant breeding techniques to increase protein content in important Canadian crops, including canola. AgGene has identified an important cluster of genes which regulate the accumulation of storage proteins.

“We have seen protein increase anywhere from five per cent to 20 per cent. We’ve identified a handful of genes that we can manipulate to boost protein content,” he says.

“We can actually channel some of the compounds within the seed toward protein production. It’s a complex network of genes, but the technology itself is fairly straightforward.”

That technology is needed as the global population continues to grow rapidly and more consumers think about their health and the environment, notes the National Research Council of Canada in its report Plant-Based Protein Market: Global and Canadian Market Analysis.

“The demand for animal-protein alternatives, meat replacements and other non-animal industrial ingredients has rapidly increased. Cultural, health and environmental changes have all combined to create favourable market conditions for the rise of plant-based protein,” the report states.

It goes on to note that annual global sales of plant-based meat alternatives have grown an average of eight per cent a year since 2010, with projections forecasting that, in 25 years, 20 per cent of meat will consist of plant-based and so-called “clean” meat. Global revenue for plant-based dairy is expected to reach US$34 billion in 2024. The plant-based beverage market has grown approximately 33 per cent annually over the past five years.

“Looking at the landscape of the protein industry, we’ve seen lots of success with some of these meat alternatives. We need to start looking at increasing protein content in some of the seeds that basically serve as a precursor for a lot of these different plant-based foods,” Skori says.

“On top of that, there’s still over 600 million people across the globe that are deficient in protein on a daily basis, so this technology also has humanitarian applications as well.”

AgGene is based at the Life Sciences Innovation Hub at Innovate Calgary, but Skori also does consulting in the plant biotech space. Ever the innovator, he created a home-based workspace where he can make his technological dreams into reality.

“I’ve always wanted to have my own area that I could get into and just follow up on my ideas. I converted my garage into a lab space where I can do tissue cultures, molecular cloning, that kind of thing. It’s a place for me that I can slip away to and just do some basic R&D and just kind of explore some of the curiosities that I have.”

Editor’s note: This is the third entry in our Fields of the Future series! Don’t forget to check out the previous two instalments and stay tuned for more.