Thinking outside the box: plant nutrients – without the plant
TO MOD, Israel, November 30, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Nutri-tech startup Novella, Ltd., is opening a new chapter in climate-resilient environments through nutrient cultivation. The company uses proprietary technology to grow edible botanicals, leaving the whole plant out of the equation. This new platform in the plant world will help increase global access to high-value nutritional supplements.
Addressing the growing demand for plant micronutrients, the new technology overcomes supply chain disruptions, circumvents climate change and extends the life cycle of plants.
“We don’t need the whole plant to access specific bioactive compounds,” he explains Kobe Avidan, CEO and co-founder of Novella. “It is also not necessary to throw away up to 99% of a plant and generate tons of agricultural waste just to extract specific nutrients. We have the technology where we can limit the harvest of an entire field to its plant essence in a single bioreactor.”
Field to bottle fails
The traditional field-to-bottle protocol for the production of nutritional supplements involves a long, complex and often nerve-wracking process of prolonged cultivation and labor-intensive harvesting of sensitive plant products and the use of vast tracts of agricultural land. The raw materials must then be transferred – often overseas – to an extraction factory before being transferred to another factory, often in another country, for formulation into a final supplement. This can also lead to difficulties in achieving standardized doses of natural substances.
The supply chain of botanical extracts is continuously subject to natural plant growth cycles, changing environmental conditions, climate fluctuations and social and economic constraints. These have been further complicated by recent political instability and logistical obstacles that have not yet recovered from the pandemic era.
All these setbacks hit the dietary supplement business at a time when it is experiencing its biggest boom, reaching a global value of billions of US dollars. This has placed an additional enormous strain on the industry to meet demand as well as on the planet’s limited resources.
Thinking outside the box
Instead of growing the whole plant, Novella examines specific plant tissues – including stems, fruits, leaves and flowers – to determine the highest concentrations of the desired actives. Cell culture (callus) is formed from these tissues and amplified in bioreactors. This results in a pure, pesticide-free powdered product composed of whole cellular plant tissues with their natural nutrient complex intact.
The Novella Cultivation System eliminates the need for extraction by increasing the concentration of active substances within the plant cells themselves, which are contained in a natural protective shell to prevent oxidation. This also ensures full bioavailability.
“Growing nutrients outside of a plant is actually a simpler process than growing meat cells outside of a cow,” Avidan explains. “What’s more, we can now cultivate any ingredient close to the market of interest. This will be a tool to reduce costs as well as lighten their environmental footprint.”
The start-up company will grow the ingredients in a controlled non-GMO environment, with precise regulation of stressors such as light and temperature to create an ideal environment for cultivating specific bioactive substances in consistently potent and highly precise quantities.
Novella has made progress in researching certain vegetables, such as cabbage, to source some popular vitamins and antioxidants. Although hailed as a nutrient-dense “super plant,” many consumers avoid kale because of its bitter taste and tough, fibrous texture.
“Kale has attracted the interest of the functional food, supplement and pharmaceutical industries because of its long list of vitamins and minerals,” claims Shimrit Bar El, PhD, co-founder and CRO of Novella. “But it’s very difficult to work with and rework. We specifically study the vegetable for its vitamin K and unique carotenoid composition.”
Novella can grow any type of plant tissue, but currently focuses on cultivating a few high-end plants, including some widely consumed vegetables that boast potent concentrations of nutrients like vitamin C that cannot be extracted by existing methods.
“Consumers continue to look for products that are microbiologically safe, natural and without chemical additives,” he explains Father Dana, B.Sc., MBA, co-founder and BDO for Novella. “There is an increasing demand for natural botanicals accompanied by increasing price increases as a result of the scarcity of such products.”
“By moving the cultivation of popular micronutrients to the laboratory, the Novella platform can help free up extensive agricultural land to rededicate to the growth of food crops, while making high-value nutritional ingredients more readily available at affordable prices,” concludes Dana .
Novella was co-founded earlier this year by three experts from three different disciplines: Kobi Avidan, MA, Chairman and CEO, is a biotech innovator who has held key roles in algae and plant tissue culture (bioreactor) companies and co-founded and heads the vegetable variety development company BreedX, Ltd. He was also the Executive Director of R&D Operations for Hazera, Ltd. Shimrit Bar ElPhD, CRO, is an expert in nutritional biochemistry with experience in academic research, applied nutrition and food technology, development, regulation, intellectual property and quality assurance. Father Dana, B.Sc., MBA, Global BDO and Marketing Executive is a food engineer and biotechnologist who has held former senior positions at various leading ingredient and food technology companies such as Galam Group, LycoRed and Equinom. He has strong experience in growing products from idea to commercialization.
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