Plant genetics pioneer NuCicer has developed chickpeas with 75% higher protein content than conventional varieties. The new chickpeas are non-GMO and developed naturally using wild genetic diversity, producing a highly cost-effective protein with the power to disrupt the plant-based industry.
Looking to outcompete soy, wheat, and pea, NuCicer reports that its new ultra-high protein varieties will cut the cost of chickpea protein by almost half. Speaking with vegconomist, NuCicer co-Founder and CEO Kathryn Cook explains that the company uses “genomics-guided, speed breeding” techniques to optimize natural genetic diversity. This allows NuCicer to reduce a traditional 10-year breeding cycle down to as few as 24 months.
NuCicer has spent over ten years compiling the world’s largest collection of wild crop progenitors with cultivated chickpea, and is now working to increase yield and production stability with increased heat and drought tolerance. The company is currently scaling operations with a plan for commercial production in 2023; “We are in conversations with partners who recognize the opportunity of new ingredients from our high-protein chickpeas,” Cook commented.
Chickpea protein future
According to the company, chickpeas are already the third most widely grown grain legume, and make a sustainable, functional ingredient with a capacity for nitrogen fixation – meaning the crop enriches the soil with life-giving nitrogen. By exploring the extraordinary genetic potential of chickpeas, NuCicer’s innovations may provide a major opportunity for the crop to soon become a leader in the alt protein space.
“As we develop crops for the future we must look holistically at our food system – from farmer through to end food or beverage product – and bring requirements into crop breeding programs that drive improvements throughout the system,” Cook told vegconomist.
“Extensive genetic diversity is critical to achieving this vision, which is what makes NuCicer’s technology so powerful”, she added.