The proprietary seeds were developed at the Israeli Agricultural Research Organization (ARO) by Nativ Dudai, PhD, Professor and head of The Unit of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants
AgriTech start-up Future Crops is boosting its output of the high-yielding basil variety it adapted for cultivation in the company’s primarily solar powered vertical farm. The farming technique for this aromatic basil variety is designed to impart a long shelf life and secure a supply of locally grown, pesticide-free herb to the European market.
The proprietary seeds were developed at the Israeli Agricultural Research Organization (ARO) by Nativ Dudai, PhD, Professor and head of The Unit of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants.
“Most of the basil varieties today have been developed to grow in the outdoors in open fields as well as green houses," said Dudai. " Our goal was breeding varieties that would best fit the novel vertical farming paradigm. Our breakthrough in sequencing the basil genome gave us the modern molecular tools for developing cultivars imbued with very specific desired genetic characteristics. We in particular searched for such traits as resilience to environmental stressors, yield capabilities, as well as flavour and textural properties.”
Making use of the shared agronomical knowledge, as well as access to Professor Dudai’s seed bank and database, basil seeds harbouring all the desired traits were selected and brought together via a process of natural breeding. This was achieved without genetic modifications or editing. The team has developed a number of different herb seed varieties via this method. The start-up has finalised negotiations with the ARO Institute to purchase exclusive licensing rights to these seeds for commercialisation worldwide.
The company has developed specific climate conditions for its basil, allowing it to grow year-round, it says, even during the cold Dutch winter. The crop is grown on a nutrient-enriched soil-like substrate, with cultivation parameters such as light, temperature, wind, and humidity, fully controlled.
“Plants behave very differently in closed environments versus in an open field,” asserts Gary Grinspan, CEO and co-founder of Future Crops. “We are constantly observing and tuning into their growth needs to mimic the outdoor field ambience as much as possible.” As a result of these arduous measures, Future Crops’ vertically farmed basil has almost tripled its yield over the last three years and boasts a shelf life that stretches over two weeks under optimum storage conditions, the company says.