Inari wins FIT's 2020 Newcomer of the Year Trophy for revolutionizing agriculture in Flanders and beyond

 

To address the growing demand for quality food and to help tackle the effects of climate change in agriculture, American biotech firm Inari is developing climate-resilient seeds. The goal is to make crops yield more with less reliance on water and chemicals, while also making them more suitable for a variety of soil types and weather conditions. The company recently opened an R&D branch in Ghent’s biotech valley and partnered up with research institutes VIB and ILVO. A promising new kid on the block in Flanders’ life sciences industry, Inari was presented with the 2020 Newcomer of the Year Trophy at Flanders Investment & Trade’s Foreign Investment Trophy event on 11 February 2020.

As a spin-off of Flagship Pioneering, an American venture capital firm that guides and supports innovative life sciences projects, Inari intends to disrupt the agricultural industry by tapping into the natural genetic diversity of seeds. The goal is to develop higher-yielding, climate-resilient crops faster and more efficiently. “The key to uncovering the untapped potential of natural diversity in seeds is Inari’s unique technology,” says CEO Ponsi Trivisvavet. “We have the ability to rapidly enhance nature’s genetic diversity and provide ways to increase yields, save water and reduce agriculture’s impact on our land and climate. Our technologies address not only the needs of growers, but those of the environment as well.”

Heavyweight partnerships

Inari’s 550 m2 laboratory and office facility in Ghent is located at BioScape, a leading life sciences incubator. It’s the company’s first expansion outside of the US. In Flanders, Inari has partnered up with renowned life sciences research institute VIB, and ILVO, the institute for agriculture, fisheries and food. Joining forces with these two strategic research centers, Inari is fast-tracking its ambition through Flanders’ prominent life sciences community. “Thanks to these partnerships, we have access to high-caliber expertise in plant biology and genomics as well as state-of-the art phenotyping and greenhouse facilities,” says Ponsi Trivisvavet.

“Ghent is a center of excellence in plant science, and we are excited to be part of the thriving biotech ecosystem here.” - Ponsi Trivisvavet, CEO of Inari

Research excellence in Flanders

Inari currently employs 6 researchers in Flanders, but expects to hire up to 40 employees in the years to come. “The Ghent biotech cluster represents an incredible talent pool and we are very excited to be here,” says director of the Inari Ghent site, Fred Van Ex. The R&D branch in Ghent focuses on increasing water- and nitrogen-use efficiency in crops. Crops that possess these attributes help address critical issues related to climate change and overreliance on chemical fertilizers, which impact global food supplies and the environment.

Ghent is a center of excellence in plant science, and we are excited to be part of this thriving biotech ecosystem as we accelerate our efforts and challenge an industry that is unquestionably overdue for innovation,” says Ponsi Trivisvavet. “By working collaboratively with VIB and ILVO, we will continue to make steady progress toward our goal of advancing agriculture.”

“By working collaboratively with VIB and ILVO, we will continue to make steady progress toward our goal of advancing agriculture.” - Ponsi Trivisvavet, CEO of Inari

Granddaughter of the green revolution

Ponsi Trivisvavet is one of many women in Inari’s leadership team. Also among them is Vice President Julie Borlaug, whose family name carries a lot of weight in the agricultural industry. She is the granddaughter of Dr. Norman Borlaug, also known as the ‘father of the green revolution’. He won the Nobel Peace Prize and was credited for saving over a billion people from starvation.

Its seems that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as Julie Borlaug exhibits the same passion for agricultural research. “Technological innovation is essential to tackling the effects of climate change in agriculture,” she says. “If we want to continue to produce enough food, drought-, heat- and salt-resistant crops are necessary.”

The ultimate goal of Inari is to bring “personalized seeds” to the market that can be sold directly to seed companies and farmers. In striving to complete its mission, the company rejects partnerships with agri-industry giants. “Our focus is on smaller players with whom we can build natural alliances,” Julie Borlaug concludes.