Simplot Plant Sciences
The J.R. Simplot Company has a long-standing heritage of innovation in potatoes. In the 1940s, Simplot invented the dehydration process for potatoes, enabling them to send potato flakes to U.S. troops during World War II. In the 1960s, Simplot invented the process for frozen fries and is still one of the world’s leading suppliers to restaurants around the world. In 2015, Simplot introduced the Innate® potato, the world’s first bioengineered potato with consumer traits such as reduced blackspot bruising and browning.
Moving forward, Simplot has plans to be on the cutting edge of potato technology, wherever it leads. We have made industry-leading investments in Innate® biotechnology, gene editing, and diploid breeding to reduce or solve some of the biggest issues with potatoes. Recent advancements in certain varieties have reduced the need to spray fungicides to control late blight disease by 50 percent, reduced the formation of dietary acrylamide by up to 89 percent and cut food waste significantly.
Innate® works with the potato’s own genome to achieve desirable traits. We’ve used modern biotechnology techniques to bring together some of the best traits from different types of potatoes. Pieces of potato gene related to certain traits such as the browning due to oxidation are added to the potatoes, causing the down-regulation of expression. The process effectively “turns-down” the volume of the gene without impacting any of the vital processes of the plant. These potatoes are grown just like any other potato plants on farms, but their tubers contain the improved traits.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have extensively reviewed Innate® Generation 1 and 2 potatoes and found them to be just as safe and nutritious as other types of potatoes currently on the market. Innate® Generation 2 potatoes have also been reviewed and registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
CRISPR-Cas9 is the name of a gene editing technology that uses “genetic scissors” to reduce a reaction that causes an undesirable result like dark colors in cut fruit. For example, in potatoes, we are able to reduce polyphenol oxidase leading to fewer black spots.
Simplot has executed a joint intellectual property licensing agreement with Corteva Agriscience, Agriculture Division of DowDuPont, and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard for foundational CRISPR-Cas9 and related gene editing tools. The technology provides Simplot with another avenue to bring desirable traits forward in potatoes.
Each year, 35 percent of fresh potatoes worth $1.7 billion are lost because of waste from poor storage or shelf life according to the Journal of Consumer Affairs. Gene editing technology like CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing tools may be able to reduce that significantly.
Gene editing tools may enable growers to obtain higher usable yields because of better quality potatoes. The sustainability benefits include using less land, fewer pesticides, water and labor while extending the quality of the potatoes.
German breeding company KWS and Simplot have founded a new joint venture company, Aardevo, to deliver top-performing potato varieties through diploid breeding. The JV combines the highly advanced potato growing and processing capabilities of Simplot with the wealth of experience and expertise in plant breeding of KWS.
Aardevo will focus on breeding new potato varieties with improved and novel traits, quicker than ever before. By enhancing taste and texture, producing greater yield, and strengthening disease resistance and processing quality, Aardevo will provide new and exciting choices for growers and consumers.
Due to the genetic makeup of potatoes, the breeding of a new variety currently takes up to 20 years. To speed up this process substantially, one of the goals set by Aardevo is the creation of diploid hybrid potatoes which are more amenable to faster genetic gains via breeding than their tetraploid counterparts. Furthermore, the long-term ambition is to provide farmers with true potato seed from which to grow potato plants. Using true potato seed for planting, instead of whole or cut-up tubers, has the potential to deliver more reliable starting material with decreased risk for disease and environmental benefits for storage.