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Hi Fidelity Genetics Aims to Automate Plant Breeding

HFG officials say new financing will help deliver better genetics into the non-GMO corn market.

Access to high-quality genetics at a reasonable cost is a familiar lament to farmers. Hi Fidelity Genetics (HFG), a computational crop breeding company, is trying to change that.

“Since the early 2000s, seed corn prices have gone up 2.5 times faster than corn prices, eroding the farmer’s share of farm-gate value,” said Clay Mitchell, cofounder and managing director of Fall Line Capital who is also HFG’s chairman of the board, in an HFG news release. “The ability of HFG’s technology to rapidly create outstanding corn seed and the company’s initial focus on delivering seed into the non-GM market, which has the lowest regulatory hurdles, frames a really exciting opportunity for creating value.” 

HFG officials say that a recent $8.5 million Series A round of financing from Finistere Ventures and other firms including Gro Alliance, KdT Ventures, Prairie Crest Capital, S2G, and Tom Farms will help it achieve this. Firm officials say it initially will focus on broad-acre crops like corn and cotton. 

New Technologies Aim to Drive Breeding Decisions 

HFG officials see crop breeding decisions being driven by artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive data science. 

“By using novel data sets and predictive data science to create the first end-to-end predictive breeding platform for crops, HFG is changing this paradigm and empowering farmers,” said Spencer Maughan, cofounder of HFG and Finistere Ventures in an HFG news release. Finistere Ventures is a California-based agritech venture capital firm. 

HFG has developed non-genetically modified (non-GM) corn hybrids that HFG officials say are competitive with current commercial seed. Firm officials say its data-driven approach has helped drive rapid improvement of its proprietary corn seed and dramatically decreased the cost of traditional breeding. 

HFG officials say the $8.5 million in new funding will accelerate development of RootTracker, the first scalable in-field root architecture sensor system for breeding more robust root systems. The funding also will help develop Luther, the firm’s end-to-end artificial intelligence (AI) breeding platform with the first prediction engine for hybrid seed creation.

“Traditional breeding methods are manual and expensive, and there has been no scalable option to breed for root traits,” said Maughan in a company news release. “However, the importance of roots in confronting abiotic stress, such as drought and nutrient scarcity, is well known. HFG solves for this limitation and delivers the first cost-effective, nondestructive, in-field approach to objectively map roots from individual plants to make advanced root breeding possible. As climate volatility and water availability make current corn seed more vulnerable to large changes in yield performance, HFG sees incredible potential to build genomes with ‘drought insurance’ via enhanced root performance.”

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