Benson Hill, a food tech company unlocking nature’s genetic diversity with its cutting-edge food innovation engine, today made two announcements that further the company’s ability to leverage the combined power of food science, data science and plant biology through its CropOS technology platform to accelerate and scale the delivery of novel plant-based food and ingredient options to meet rising global demand.
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 a suite of new opportunities for product innovation and differentiation using fewer and simpler ingredients.
With St. Louis-based venture capital firm Lagomaj Capital, Benson Hill is breaking ground on a new Crop Accelerator, a state-of-the-art, controlled environment research facility located near Benson Hill’s new headquarters in the 39 North Innovation District. The 47,000 square-foot Crop Accelerator will feature 20,000 square feet of dynamically adaptive Conviron growth houses and chambers, equipped with multi-channel LEDs, additive CO2, temperature, humidity and lighting controls.
The innovative facility will enable plant breeding to develop varieties up to four years faster than traditional research facilities and is part of the company’s contribution to a more responsive food system that reconnects farmers and consumers in more sustainable ways. The Crop Accelerator will allow rapid development of feed, food and ingredients positioning farmers and food companies to grow and deliver products with the attributes consumers are looking for, including improved taste and nutrition.
“Our philosophy is guided by the idea that capital is fuel enabling people to do great things and driving innovative solutions to major challenges,” said Felix Williams, founder of Lagomaj Capital. “Our investment in the Crop Accelerator is a physical representation of our belief in the impact that Benson Hill’s technology and model can have on the health and sustainability of food and agriculture. We are proud to be developing a facility of this scale and prestige in our hometown.”
Benson Hill is also announcing the addition of three experts to the company’s Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) to enhance expertise in food science, data science and plant biology in new and integrated ways.
Mark Matlock, Gary Fogel and Julia Bailey-Serres will join the board’s distinguished, interdisciplinary experts providing external scientific review and strategic guidance to research and product development efforts.
Food science expert Mark Matlock will help Benson Hill further develop insights between plant genetics and consumer benefits. Matlock was a leading scientist and driving force with the Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) for 40 years, where he authored or co-authored 10 U.S. patents. As Senior Vice President of Research, his business contributions at ADM include early exploration of plant-based protein products and acquisitions of Wild Flavors and Biopolis.
Data science expert Gary Fogel, Ph.D., will support the company as it continues to hone the capabilities of its food innovation engine, CropOS. Fogel is the CEO of Natural Selection, Inc. and also maintains an Adjunct Faculty role with the Computational Science Research Center at San Diego State University. Gary is an expert in machine learning, particularly in the application of computational intelligence to problems in biology, chemistry and medicine.
Plant biology expert Julia Bailey-Serres, Ph.D., will offer strategic guidance as Benson Hill seeks to better leverage the genomic diversity of plants to help solve for challenges in the food system. Bailey-Serres is Distinguished Professor of Genetics, Director of the Center for Plant Cell Biology, at the University of California, Riverside. She currently holds the University of California MacArthur Foundation Chair. Bailey-Serres is known for her research on mechanisms of plant adaptive responses to environmental stresses.
“The Crop Accelerator facility will allow Benson Hill to bypass the delays of seasonal field testing by coupling this state-of-the-art facility with our CropOS technology platform, further leveraging the power of both plant science and data science with AI/ML predictive crop performance algorithms,” said Jason Bull, Ph.D., Chief Technology Officer of Benson Hill. “With the addition of world-class scientific talent that traverses the food science, data science and plant biology fields, we are creating food that is better from the beginning by design and intent.”