Developing Hardier, Disease-Resistant Strains of Canola to Meet Growing Global Demand

Canada-Israel Industrial Research & Development FoundationDeveloping Hardier, Disease-Resistant Strains of Canola to Meet Growing Global Demand

Collaborating Firms Develop Valuable IP for the Production of New Canola Seed Lines

Canadian Company: Crop Production Services (CPS)

Israeli Company: Evogene

Sector: Agriculture; Life Sciences

Opportunity

Canola, a vegetable oil made from rapeseed, has the potential to help us address global sustainability challenges by producing healthier food stuffs; contributing to climate change solutions; and creating alternative energy sources. Developed by Canadian plant scientists, canola is low in saturated fats, generating extensive use as a primary food oil. While global demand for canola is high, its growth is limited by short growing seasons and environmental challenges.

Canada and Israel bring unique strengths to bear in this industry. Canada is the largest canola producer in the world. This crop contributed $19.3 billion to the Canadian economy in 2013. Israel is a global leader in multidisciplinary innovation and the development of agricultural technologies. This includes noteworthy breakthroughs in the efficient use of water, and the development of marginal lands for agriculture.

Global demand for canola production is expected to jump 40 percent by 2025. This prompted a Canada-Israel R&D to pool their expertise and address key challenges that inhibit the growth of this crop.

Objective

This R&D project brought together:

  • Crop Production Services (CPS), a leading Canadian supplier of quality products and services that help customers grow the best crops possible;
  • Evogene, an Israeli plant genomics company that uses proprietary technology to enhance seed traits underlying crop productivity.

CPS and Evogene aimed to develop hardier strains of canola that are capable of growing in harsh environmental conditions to enable increased production of this multi-purpose crop. The companies sought to produce new canola seed lines with improved resistance to abiotic stresses such as drought, heat and salinity. CPS integrated genes identified by Evogene into its canola germplasm, living tissue from which new plants can be grown. The companies then tested many different combinations to determine those with the greatest potential to increase canola yield and abiotic stress tolerance.

Outcome

Bringing new crops to market is a long, risky and regulation-heavy process. Although the team did not commercialize a new variation of canola, this collaboration yielded important outcomes for both firms. CPS improved its knowledge of new seed line production, while Evogene gained valuable experience in the conduct of transgenic field trials, akin to clinical trials for new foods.

“This CIIRDF R&D project helped CPS to achieve an important breakthrough: a two-fold increase in efficiency within our canola breeding program. We achieved significant breeding process efficiencies that allowed us to double the capacity of our doubled-haploid inbred canola pipeline. Within our industry, this is considered valuable intellectual property. The resulting efficiency gains will enable CPS to develop new high performance canola hybrids more rapidly, accelerating our breeding process. This is essential to help CPS generate new revenue streams, and capture a greater share of the global canola market. This project also provided our team with unique training opportunities in the lab and the field, in addition to cultivating new expertise within our firm. This helps us to successfully create high performing hybrids for Canada and nations around the world.”

Bruce Harrison, Director, Research and New Business Development, CPS

“The CIIRDF project proved invaluable for Evogene even though commercialization of new hybrid canola seed did not occur as originally proposed. Working closely with CPS, we gained extensive experience in the design and conduct of field trials. We are now applying this knowledge to enhance our future commercialization plans, and strengthen our business more broadly. This know-how represents a critical element of Evogene’s intellectual property, and on-going success.”

Ofer Haviv, President and CEO, Evogene