Novel seed enhancement tech makes deserts bloom

Extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, droughts, and extreme cold, significantly threaten agriculture, leading to desertification.

As fertile lands degrade and lose their capacity to support life and cultivate food, AgriTech startup SaliCrop, Ltd., has introduced a seed treatment aimed at transforming arid landscapes into fertile areas for food production. The company's expertise in desert technology has led to the development of a non-GMO method that enhances seed resilience to abiotic stresses caused by extreme climate conditions. This innovation promises to increase agricultural yields in arid regions, improving the viability of marginal lands for food cultivation and contributing to global food security.

SaliCrop's approach is already demonstrating its value in Spain's tomato industry, where saline soil and heat stress are major challenges. Soil salinity, exacerbated by rising sea levels and irrigation with brackish water, severely limits crop germination and growth. Additionally, heat stress is predicted to threaten nearly three-quarters of global food production within the next two decades, as per a late 2022 report by Verisk Maplecroft. Sharon Devir, Ph.D., Co-Founder and Active Chairperson of SaliCrop, highlighted the urgency of addressing these issues, noting that over 830 million hectares of agricultural land are now saline, leading to significant losses in agricultural productivity and revenue.

SaliCrop's seed enhancement technology was developed by cā Godbole, Ph.D., Co-Founder and CSO of the company. Coming from a lineage of agronomists, Godbole has been instrumental in assisting farmers in Mumbai's coastal areas to overcome soil salinity challenges. The technology involves exposing seeds to controlled abiotic stresses, activating their innate stress-response mechanisms, and enabling them to thrive in harsh conditions without altering their DNA. This green solution aims to stimulate plants' stress responses pre-emptively, enhancing their ability to absorb nutrients and develop robust root structures in highly saline soil.

Carmit Oron, CEO of SaliCrop, stated: "Under SaliCrop's treatment, plants not only thrive in poor quality, highly saline soil but also exhibit increased vigour and superior germination rates." This innovation transforms once-barren lands into fertile areas, offering a sustainable solution for farmers worldwide facing the impacts of climate change.

The effectiveness of SaliCrop's technology has been particularly evident in tomato cultivation in Spain, where the startup collaborated with farmers in Extremadura to improve yields and quality on 30-hectare fields. The country's severe drought conditions have underscored the need for innovative approaches to agriculture. SaliCrop's climate-smart technology has enabled tomatoes to withstand extreme climate events, leading to significant increases in yield and income for farmers.

As SaliCrop progresses to commercial stages, its treated seeds are making a difference across more than 1,000 hectares in Israel and beyond. The company continues to expand its field trials across Europe, Africa, and India, targeting a wide range of crops and demonstrating the universal applicability of its solution. This marks a significant step forward in the quest for sustainable agricultural practices in the face of changing global climate conditions.