We sat down for a chat with Yannik Schlup, CBO of Puregene Ag, one of NRGene’s strategic customers. Puregene, a subsidiary of Pure Holding AG, invests substantially into new variety development to stand at the forefront of the non-psychoactive cannabis or hemp industry.
Using a state-of-the-art breeding program, Puregene makes use of NRGene’s tools to develop hemp varieties which contain novel pharmacoactive compounds such as cannabinoids and terpenes. Moreover, the company focuses on high value productivity traits critical for indoor and outdoor production environments to supply the industry with high-quality cannabis genetics.
“We started our R&D program under the realization that research into variety development of new varieties of hemp should be at the level of many other high value crops. However, low THC levels requirements and the lack of tested high-performing genetics make it extremely challenging for farmers to produce CBD and other legal cannabinoids. Puregene is in the course of bridging this R&D gap” Yannik says. “We have the ability to accurately control THC levels and production traits at the genetic level and are the first company in Europe to do so successfully through the use of advanced genomic tools”, he adds. Beyond advance genomic-based breeding, about a third of the group’s activities revolves around complying with the extensive new suite of international regulations and having varieties that constantly adapt to new compliance requirements.
Yannik identifies increasing clarity on the global regulatory perception of cannabis and hemp, and believes that it’s a matter of time until the European regulation will match market demands.
How does using genomics help you in the breeding process?
“Genomics plays a key role in choosing the right parents to generate the best offspring for selection, drastically reducing the time to market in this fast-paced industry. Our genomics tools require very little time to get new traits such as novel cannabinoids to the market. In this way we are using genetics to do our part to help shape the industry and stay ahead of the curve”.
Puregene leverages NRGene’s genomic tools to identify and research other compounds in Cannabis beyond CBD and THC such as cannabigerol (CBG). CBG holds potential for medicinal uses (i.e. inhibiting colon cancer growth, treating glaucoma, etc). Furthermore, high CBG contents correlates with very low THC levels, complying with regulatory barriers. Yannik sees the genomic research as a key factor in the development of its elite CBG varieties, which is meeting various market needs.
As most of the Pure Group’s production is done outdoors, Puregene applies its sophisticated breeding programs to optimize hemp genetics to improve production processes, such as better yield per acre and mechanical ease of harvest to large scale production of female flower hemp. “In the last 4 seasons, we see a 25-50% increase in yield in every season”, Yannik notes. “As opposed to traditional crops, such as corn and soybean, where genetic research helps increase production by single percent points only, in the young cannabis production industry the leaps are far more dramatic, really making it a fun plant to research”.
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