Seed World

Why NRGene’s Move to Canada is Proof of the Country’s Potential for Innovation

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

EDITOR’S NOTE: NRGene officially opened its new Canadian office yesterday in Saskatoon, Sask. Seed World Group will provide comprehensive coverage on what it means for the company and for Canada. Below we are re-running NRGene CEO Gil Ronen’s July 2020 column and podcast on the move.

When I look at Canada, I see a legacy agricultural community that is going places.

I’ve seen that potential for many years, but it really became evident to me in 2015 when NRGene, a company I co-founded in Israel a decade ago, got involved in the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC) project and began working with Canadian researchers on decoding the wheat genome.

It was a big project. At the time, decoding the wheat genome was a major challenge as it’s a highly complex crop. Work on the bread wheat genome had been in process for more than a decade. Our technology was capable of decoding the wheat genome and completed the work in two months, five years ahead of time.

Saskatchewan researchers, including wheat breeder and researcher Curtis Pozniak and his team, played a key role in the international consortium’s success.

Aside from the Green Revolution, it was perhaps one of the most significant events in the history of wheat breeding. Since then, we have enjoyed multiple projects in Canada involving canola, lentil, mustard, beans, and more.

Together we initiated the world’s first canola pangenome consortium led by Isobel Parkin from AAFC. All that laid a further foundation for our strong and long-lasting relationships with the community of Canadian researchers and agricultural companies.

That is why NRGene decided to open a Canadian office in Saskatoon. We currently have two offices in the United States, but both are dedicated mostly to sales and marketing. While in Canada our goal is to be involved in research and development of better performing varieties and our office here will be dedicated to R&D activities.

This is the place we want to build true collaboration to not only provide software but create roadmaps to developing better seeds. We are getting a lot of support in Canada from seed companies and academia.

Recent months have shed new light on the importance of local and global food sustainability and security. Bringing food to the supermarket shelves is not a trivial task. You need the entire value chain to do that, from breeders and farmers to food companies and distributors.

As the world figures out how to build the infrastructure needed to maintain food security, Canada, as one of the leading countries of agricultural produce, has an important role to play in setting an example for how to develop better performing varieties.

It helps that Canada is making great strides in the area of regulatory modernization which will allow it to better compete on the international stage.

With a world-class agricultural research cluster in Saskatoon, a burgeoning AgTech sector, and such a strong history of primary production, we see Canada as a natural place for NRGene to expand its operations and as a country staking its rightful place as an international breeding hub.

—Gil Ronen is CEO of NRGene