Pairwise, which uses CRISPR technology to enhance fruits and vegetables, announced today that it has raised a $90 million Series B round of funding. The round was led by Pontifax Global Food and Agriculture Technology Fund (Pontifax AgTech) and existing investor Deerfield Management Company. Temasek and Leaps by Bayer also participated in the round, which brings Pairwise’s total funding to $115 million.
CRISPR is an exciting new field in food and ag tech. As Spoon Founder Mike Wolf wrote last year:
Food scientists around the world are using CRISPR tools to create food that is more disease resistant and tastes better, as well as utilizing the technology to save crops that might be at risk due to climate change.
Pairwise is using its CRISPR technology to improve five different types of produce, including mustard greens. Mustard greens are a high-yield crop with a strong nutritional profile, but their pungent smell and bitter taste prevents them from being a dinner plate staple. Pairwise aims to develop mustard green that gets rid off these not-so-great parts of the green so it too, can be an additional crop grown for consumption.
In addition to greens, Pairwise is working on improved berries and cherries. The applications of Pairwise’s technology go beyond eliminating bad odors and tastes. The company promises that CRISPR will allow it to also improve the shelf life, yield and seasonal availability of fruits and vegetables.
There are still regulatory hurdles to overcome for CRISPR-based foods. Unlike genetically modified foods, CRISPR is not introducing anything new into the genes of a plant (or meat). It is simply working with the material that is already present.
But still, it is uncharted territory. At the end of last year, the USDA sent out a proposed rule change that would have it oversee gene-edited animals instead of the FDA. So look for the regulations around CRISPR-based food to crystalize over the coming year.
Pairwise said its first product “is expected in 2022.”