Food tech company Benson Hill is using science to breed more nutritious and sustainable food to target the growing number of health-conscious consumers looking to lessen their environmental impact. Its recently launched ingredient and fresh business segments will help deliver enhanced plant-based products using the company's proprietary CropOS technology platform.
Benson Hill maps findings of consumer sensory panels, food formulation testing and farmer fields all the way back to the plant genomic level, using advanced data analytics techniques. This enables the company to unlock the genetic diversity within crops and develop ingredients that are better from the beginning, creating new dimensions for food science and new opportunities for product innovation and differentiation using fewer and simpler ingredients.
Combining data analytics and artificial intelligence with plant biology and food science, CropOS helps Benson Hill produce plants that are highly productive, highly nutritious and better tasting — without the need for additives. The ag-tech firm said that it can can improve sustainability by breeding plants capable of doing more with fewer processing steps, allowing for products to reach the market faster.
"Consumers want healthier, more flavorful and more sustainable food choices, but the traditional commodity model is not set up to meet that demand at scale. We are leveraging our best-in-class technology and working with our partners to drive the evolution of the current system toward a new model, where high-quality options that are better from the beginning are accessible to everyone," said Matt Crisp, CEO of St. Louis-based Benson Hill.
Benson Hill’s Ingredient segment is focused on enhancing yellow pea and soy ingredients for the fast-growing plant-based protein market. Despite being the second-largest crop for plant-based ingredients, yellow pea has received almost no genomic innovation to date, so Benson Hill has developed a comprehensive genomic map that, in combination with its CropOS platform, enables the company to accelerate its breeding program to develop uniquely differentiated varieties. Benson Hill is working on a pipeline of products with the potential to reduce off-flavors, increase the quantity of the protein that the plant creates, and ultimately displace the need for the expensive, energy- and water-intensive processing steps typically required to produce protein ingredients used in plant-based meat alternatives.
The company is currently working with pet and human food ingredient customers interested in the next generation of yellow pea protein ingredients.
Benson Hill’s fresh business segment is being positioned to deliver differentiated produce. The segment will focus on combining the breeding power of CropOS with the extensive grower base, distribution network and retail relationships of its wholly owned subsidiary, J&J Family of Farms, a field produce company. With this combination, the business segment will be able to develop and commercialize differentiated produce and "functional foods," with the potential to serve the growing convergence between the produce and pharmacy aisles.
"Consumer appreciation that 'food is health' has never been higher, creating increased interest in new product choices and creative ways of incorporating produce into the diet," said Jim Gallagher, president of Loxahatchee, Florida-based J&J. "We believe Benson Hill's genomics development platform is the engine to deliver the next wave of innovation opportunity in fresh produce, from enhanced nutrient density to consumer-desired attributes like lower sugar and climate resiliency, often for crops that haven't had much innovation in the past. All of us at J&J are thrilled to be part of the Benson Hill family innovating for the future of food."
Benson Hill is investing to enhance J&J's Florida and Georgia operations with breeding and testing sites, expanded processing and distribution capacity, and sustainability best practices across J&J's grower base.
Additionally, a few weeks ago, the ag-tech firm was selected as the first investment of a three-year, $125 million co-investment partnership to advance climate solutions, formed by Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and S2G Ventures. The investment formed part of Benson Hill’s recently announced $150 million Series D funding round, which also included other strategic and environmental-, social- and governance-focused investors.