Amatera to speed up development of climate resilient coffee

Amatera, a French biotech platform accelerating the development of new perennial crops to help feed the world in the face of deforestation, diseases and climate change, has announced the closing of a €1.5 million pre-seed investment round led by PINC, Paulig’s venture arm. Exceptional Ventures, Mudcake (previous Trellis Road), Joyance Partners, Agfunder and several experienced biotech entrepreneurs, including Nicolas Morin-Forest from Gourmey, are also participating.

The beginning focus will be on coffee.

Each year, about a trillion cups of coffee are consumed worldwide. This number is expected to double by 2050. Meanwhile, coffee is one of the crops in the world most threatened and affected by climate change and diseases.

Most Arabica coffee plantations around the world are established with the varieties resulting from breeding efforts initiated some 50 years ago. However, these varieties are susceptible to disease outbreaks, and are poorly adapted to the changing climatic conditions observed in many coffee growing regions. Rising temperatures are expected to reduce the area suitable for growing Arabica coffee by up to 50% in 2050 and 26% of the global coffee production is already lost to diseases every year.

“Coffee is under threat but today it can take more than 20 years to create a new coffee variety with conventional breeding techniques. We are accelerating the breeding of perennial crops including coffee to create new varieties four to five times faster such as the “Robustica,” a new coffee variety that combines the rich flavour profile of Arabica with the robustness and higher yield properties of Robusta. We’re also developing an Arabica variety that is naturally caffeine-free, which saves a huge amount of time, money and energy, as the standard way to decaffeinate coffee is by rinsing beans with chemical solvents,” said Omar Dekkiche, CEO of Amatera.

Using cells to speed up breeding

Amatera combines the latest plant cell culture and molecular biology techniques usually used for row crops and vegetables, to speed up the natural evolution of plants.

“Our approach is based on accelerating the plant’s natural evolution at the cellular level, which is an alternative non-GMO route to genome editing. The technology as such is not new but applying it to perennial crops such as coffee is, since they are more complicated and require several breakthroughs in cell biology. This is also why gene editing techniques are struggling. Our technology is a real game-changer and opens up the avenue to applying it on several other crops, such as cacao, bananas and grapes or even pharmaceutical plants,” said Lucie Kriegshauser, CTO of Amatera.

“We love the disruptive potential and versatility of the platform since it can be used on several crops. Coffee has traditionally not received as much research and innovation as many other crops globally, and as coffee is one of Paulig’s core products, we are of course happy that Amatera’s first solution involves coffee. Our discussions with trading houses and customers show huge interest. It is still early days, but the team and its partners are world class, and we are very excited to see what they can do,” said Marika King, head of PINC.

“We’re thrilled to be part of the team at Amatera. The team combines deep expertise in both science and business, and is focused on one of the biggest challenges of our time: accelerating the development of crops that will thrive and feed the world in the face of deforestation and climate change. And all of this without reliance on any controversial gene editing. Omar and Lucie are the real deal,” said Matt Cooper, executive chairman of Exceptional Ventures.

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