Fortissimo Capital, a leading private equity fund based in Israel and led by Yuval Cohen, has invested $4 million in Equinom, an Israel-based technology seed breeding company focused on the development of specialized crops for the food industry.
This is the first installment of Fortissimo's investment as part of Equinom's third funding round.
Equinom, which was founded in 2012, has previously raised a total of $2.25 million from Hazera (1939) Ltd., a leader in seed development and field crops, along with private investors Michael and Gabriel Danziger, owners of The Danziger Group.
Equinom’s advanced breeding technology is based on proprietary algorithms and calculation methods developed by the company that combine classic breeding with genomic and bio-informatic methods. The company’s primary products are high-protein legumes and sesame seeds for oil and tahini.
Equinom has developed legume seed varieties –- pea, chickpea and cowpea –- containing 50% more protein than any commercial variety available on the market. In a market challenged by the growing worldwide demand for sustainable, non-genetically modified (GM), plant-based protein sources, an increase in protein levels represents significant financial gain to protein processors and food companies, the group said in making its announcement.
Equinom’s second product line — sesame for oil and tahini — transforms the economics of the sesame market by solving a problem that has troubled the world of agriculture for decades. Despite worldwide sales of sesame exceeding $8 billion annually, the necessity to harvest the crop manually has limited the supply of sesame to third-world countries, where manual labor is available on a large scale.
To address this challenge, Equinom developed high-yield sesame varieties suitable for mechanical harvesting, thus opening the supply chain to production anywhere in the world. Equinom’s sesame is in pre-commercial stages in the U.S. and Australia and is expected to hit the market in 2019.
To date, Equinom has signed a number of breeding contracts with leaders in the food industry, including a multiyear contract with Sabra Dipping Co. LLC, a joint venture of PepsiCo Inc. and the Strauss Group Ltd.
“Using the technology developed by Equinom, we significantly increased the level of protein in legumes and are contributing to creating market conditions that will eventually lower the cost of legume-based protein and creating food alternatives based on sustainable, non-GM sources,” Equinom founder and chief executive officer Dr. Gil Shalev said. “The investment from Fortissimo gives Equinom financial backing, allowing us to both continue accelerating the development of seeds and their commercialization in the U.S. and Australia. Equinom continues to create new plant-based proteins, and I believe that we are only a few years away from introducing new products that will allow the creation of the world’s future foods on a mass-market scale.”
Cohen, founder and managing partner at Fortissimo Capital, sees the investment as part of the firm’s overall investment strategy in agriculture in general and seed companies in particular, which also included an investment in Origene Seeds. “Equinom has proved that with the implementation of groundbreaking, non-GMO technology, it is possible to achieve what was once considered impossible in seed breeding. Fortissimo is committed to stand by Equinom on the journey to realizing the company’s vision of creating the foods of the future,” Cohen said.
Fortissimo Capital is a private equity fund that invests in public and private technology and industrial companies that require a capital infusion to expedite the growth and expansion of their business. Fortissimo manages four funds that raised an aggregate of $1 billion from leading global financial institutions, including insurance companies, banks and pension funds.