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Morocco’s UM6P Ventures invests in 2 gene editing and food waste reduction technologies

August 11, 2022

Morocco’s UM6P Ventures recently invested in two agrifoodtech startups tackling food waste and crop productivity.

Globally the climate change crisis is putting conventional agricultural systems and food security at risk. Owing to its location, Morocco is highly vulnerable to climate change, which significantly impacts crop output.

The investment vehicle in the country’s UM6P university has backed Climate Crop, a genetic editing company, and Akorn Technology, a producer of natural, edible and non-GMO coatings for fresh produce.

Taking gene editing to tomatoes and potatoes

Climate Crop, a graduate of the well-respected IndieBio accelerator program, uses gene editing to produce varieties of crops like wheat that are able to yield up to 20% more than standard varieties.

The investment in the Israeli startup aims to leverage its genetic editing technology to enhance the crop potential of Morocco’s dominant crops — tomatoes and potatoes.

“The extensive scientific support system available from UM6P Ventures, coupled with capital investment, will help Climate Crop maintain its foot hold in the gene editing food market and positively impact crop production and the world’s food supply,” said Yehuda Borenstein, CEO & Founder, Climate Crop.

“Climate crop’s solution will enhance food production, increase the grain and industrial material supply, while enhancing their carbon sequestration​, and help to mitigate the effect of climate change on agriculture,” stated UM6P Ventures in a press release.

Investing in global food waste solutions

In the same week, UM6P Ventures also invested in US-based Akorn Technology.

Around 1.3 tonnes of food is wasted annually post-harvest. The full cost of food wastage lies at an alarming $2.6 trillion per year. Some 40%-50% of root crops, fruits and vegetables are also lost annually.

Akorn Technology is tackling this issue by producing shelf-life extenders for fresh produce in the form of clean-label, plant-protein-based and edible coatings.

Its solution is a hybrid plant protein and lipid film derived from upcycled, sustainable and non-GMO corn by-products and other plant materials. The film can be applied to a variety of fruits and vegetables to slow down the ripening process, maintain the original quality of the produce, and inhibit bacterial and fungal growth.

The investment will help Akorn Technology ramp up manufacturing and support customer trials on more crops.

“Partnering with UM6P Ventures will allow us to bring this innovative technology platform to regions that could benefit most from our food coating solutions. By testing our products in unique regional climate environments and leveraging state-of-the-art UM6P nanotechnology labs, we hope to accelerate our time-to-market in regions that suffer disproportionately from food supply shortages globally,” said Anthony Zografos, CEO of Akorn Technology.

Beyond financing

Apart from capital, both Climate Crop and Akorn Technology will receive scientific support through access to UM6P University‘s research and development facilities.

This will help Climate Crop scale its technology maturity from the lab to a large-scale prototype.

Further, the startup will have access to Africa’s agtech and foodtech ecosystem and the VC firm’s local and international ecosystem partners.

The partnership is also looking at helping the startup expand in the US, starting with a subsidiary in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

Akorn Technology will also use UM6P’s labs and coating expertise to carry out solution tests. Yet again, the Moroccan ecosystem stands to benefit from this, as the startup will run solution tests on native crops to see whether climate change has an impact on its coating solution.

The startup will also partner with UM6P Ventures’ Agrobioscience industry partners to scale its manufacturing capabilities.

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