Benson Hill Biosystems, an agricultural technology company focused on unlocking the genetic potential of plants, announced a strategic partnership and grant from the National Corn Growers Assn. (NCGA).
The primary goal of the funding and partnership initiative will be to accelerate breeding and development of new corn hybrids utilizing CropOS, a cognitive engine that uses cloud biology to empower a new era of plant genomics innovation, subsequently introducing new choices for growers in the U.S. corn marketplace.
In an era of unprecedented agriculture industry consolidation, innovation in corn genetics is being further limited to a few large companies with budgets for significant research and development investment. Benson Hill’s CropOS platform empowers organizations of any size to innovate and provide growers choice, whether that be for disease, maturity or specific environmental requirements, the announcement noted. With a handful of companies owning roughly 85% of the corn market, there is limited incentive to address more geographic-specific needs; Benson Hill’s CropOS opens up new research opportunities.
“The financial and broader support of NCGA underscores our opportunity to empower innovation and help level the playing field for those seeking to develop high-performing varieties, even on a local or regional level,” Benson Hill co-founder and chief executive officer Matthew Crisp said. “The more responsive and competitive the industry is, the better equipped growers will be to sustainably meet demand for increasingly diverse solutions that benefit farms, communities, consumers and our society.”
The ability of CropOS to remove barriers to innovation directly aligns with NCGA’s mission to “create and increase opportunities for corn growers.” This association represents more than 40,000 dues-paying corn farmers nationwide and the interests of more than 300,000 growers who contribute through corn checkoff programs.
“Our members are telling us loud and clear that they need more choices in the corn marketplace,” said Larry Hoffmann, a grower and chairman of NCGA’s Corn Productivity & Quality Action Team. “We believe that the CropOS platform offers a fresh approach to leverage big data and technology and foster a more competitive industry. Our partnership heralds an exciting new era of opportunity for our members to access better hybrids from a more diversified market.”
CropOS combines vast amounts of genomic data and expert biological knowledge from public and private sources to pinpoint which plants will produce desired traits and improved performance prior to ever being planted in the field. CropOS provides decision support in breeding programs, allowing researchers to bypass multiple generations of experimentation.
The CropOS cognitive engine uses machine learning to grow smarter and more predictive with every experiment and data set. With each additional breeder that takes advantage of the analytical power and machine learning of CropOS, progress in corn breeding has the potential to accelerate significantly, making the industry more responsive to the needs of growers.