Founded in 2016, Tropic emerged in the United Kingdom, with one mission: to address the unique challenges faced by farmers in tropical regions through cutting-edge genetic innovation. With coffee being its first crop, the team at Tropic soon turned their attention to one of the world's most vital food sources: bananas.
In early 2017, Tropic became pioneers in the application of gene editing in bananas, positioning themselves at the forefront of the industry. They recognised that the biggest pain points for banana growers were the diseases that threaten the economic viability of banana cultivation and as a result jeopardised the availability of this essential food source for over 400 million people worldwide.
To this day, many farmers in the banana business are concerned that the industry as we know it will become a shadow of its former self in the coming decade unless a viable solution is identified.
Fight against the Banana Panama Disease
When it comes to the threat of the banana crop, there are two main diseases at hand - Banana Panama Disease, also known as TR4, and Black Sigatoka.
TR4, a soil-borne fungal pathogen, attacks the roots of banana plants, leading to their eventual demise. Infected fields typically suffer a significant reduction in yield, ranging from 20% to 40%, which poses a severe economic challenge for farmers for up to half a century.
Seeing this as an area that couldn’t be overlooked, the Tropic team developed a groundbreaking technology platform called GEiGS®.
Commenting on this, Tropic’s Chief Science Officer Eyal Maori says, "Our breakthrough technology platform, GEiGS®, is a game changer in the fight against diseases. By combining the benefits of RNAi with precise gene-editing, GEiGS® provides a unique and versatile platform that can be customised to address critical farming challenges such as viral, fungal, and pest diseases, without any yield penalties. It represents a major advancement in ensuring long-term crop health and sustainable agriculture."
Originally created to combat TR4 in bananas, the GEiGS® technology has expanded beyond its initial purpose and Tropic. The solution is now under licence by other organisations, enabling them to address critical disease-related issues across a wide range of crops.
In the figure below, standard Cavendish varieties which were infected with TR4 and showing the distinct brown fungal growth. [top] some of Tropic’s resistant varieties which after being infected with the pathogen remain clear of the fungal growth.
Looking ahead, Tropic has ambitious plans to expand its current field trials significantly in 2023. They aim to reach additional countries across Latin America and the Philippines, bringing the transformative power of GEiGS® to more farmers and communities. By doing so, Tropic strives to eradicate TR4 and other devastating diseases, heralding a new era of sustainable agriculture.
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