United States-based Arcadia Biosciences, an agricultural biotechnology company, announces a collaboration with Canada’s Phytola, a leader in oilseed crop research, to develop soybean varieties with increased oil content. The research and development project recently received funding from Genome Canada.

Based on research by Randall Weselake, scientific director of Phytola, the project will use genome analysis to isolate soybean seed traits that can enhance oil production in soybeans without negatively affecting protein levels. Arcadia intends to validate the best targets using its proprietary TILLING platform and genetics resources, and if successful targets are identified, would lead commercialization efforts in North and South America through Verdeca, its joint venture with Bioceres S.A.

“We are excited to be working with Arcadia on this project,” says Weselake. “Arcadia’s expertise in lipid biotechnology and development of new crop varieties, together with their established partnerships in the soybean industry, make them an excellent partner to advance Phytola’s technology for increasing seed oil content.”

Soybean oil typically comprises 18 to 20 percent of the seed and is used for cooking, as an ingredient in processed foods, and for industrial purposes. Soybeans that produce more oil will offer increased value for farmers, seed companies and processors.

Phytola and Arcadia researchers believe genomic modifications have the potential to significantly increase soybean seed oil content, and they aim to boost the oil content by up to 25 per cent. Such a breakthrough has the potential to be used in up to one-quarter of the growing global soybean seed market, currently worth as much as $4.5 billion annually. In Canada alone, the oil-rich seeds are expected to produce up to $68 million in added value annually.

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