Crop Biotech Update

Agriculture Startup to Grow Rice in the Ocean Using CRISPR

December 7, 2022

Alora, an ocean agriculture startup, is trying to activate dormant genes from seagrasses to use in terrestrial crops such as rice, wheat, and corn. In a press release, the group stated that if these genes could be activated, those crops could be grown in brackish water—or even directly in the ocean.

Using CRISPR tools, Alora is piloting an effort to grow rice plants on land in salty waters. Their plan is to move growing rice on floating platforms off the coasts of African and Asian countries. According to Alora's co-founder Luke Young, he found a "particular pattern of eight genes, in things like seagrasses and mangroves, that work together to allow the plant to not only defend itself against the saline environment, but actually use it to its own benefit as a way to power growth." Young said that those genes could be activated in terrestrial crops in the same pattern as these marine plants without introducing foreign DNAs from any other organism.

Alora is starting with rice, the most important staple food for half of the Earth's population. They are about to start a trial in the Mekong Delta, between Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh. Young said that they are currently working on a handful of rice varieties from Japan and Vietnam, with more coming from every major rice production area in the world, including the U.S., Southeast Asia, Russia, Japan, India, East and West African countries, and Europe.

For more details, read the article in NeoLife. Learn more about Alora.

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