Smarter sesame: Equinom’s novel cultivation methods “change the paradigm” for production

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Israeli seed breeding specialist Equinom’s expansion of its modern cultivation methods into the global market is changing the paradigm on the production and trading of sesame. The move is pegged by the company as a “new era of heightened profitability and increased market stability” for the ancient crop. As part of its broad sesame development plans, Equinom has signed long-term contracts with major grain handlers and international food companies to grow and commercialize its brand of “smarter” sesame varieties in Africa, South America and Europe. According to the company, sesame globalization means more flexibility for growers, food companies and grain holders.

Through leveraging a combination of cutting-edge computational science and natural breeding, Equinom has been able to develop sesame with high-yield capabilities and superior nutritional profiles. It can easily be tailored to a variety of innovative and commercial products, including baking, confectionery, tahini, oil and flour. These encompass parameters of oil concentration, protein load, flavor, and sensory qualities contributing to more uniform products. This has been a game-changer for food manufacturers, allowing them to reap the benefits in the form of consistent supplies of sesame that meet their specific application needs.

Results so far include the introduction of a fresh influx of land now dedicated to the cultivation of sesame totaling 100,000 acres worldwide to meet burgeoning demands. Newly emerging growers in the US and Australia are eagerly adopting cultivation of sesame locally.

Equinom’s smarter varieties also enable farmers to generate more accurate and pre-defined yields. Under the plan, traditional growers are realizing the benefits of Equinom’s non-GMO seed varieties to scale up production and broaden existing locations for growth.

Sesame is considered the oldest and one of the most resilient oilseeds. It can thrive in drought-like conditions where other crops fail and has proved itself to be a low-maintenance crop with promising returns, rendering the ancient seed an attractive market prospect.

“Today the sesame market trades 6.5 million metric tons globally and this figure has increased yearly by approximately 7-10 percent. A growing demand for sesame has sparked this increase with food trends playing a big part,” Oron Gar, Sesame Specialist Product Manager of Equinom, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

“Our sesame has the ability to be grown in new locations allowing this ancient crop to be cultivated locally. Local sesame provides access to players in the market who otherwise rely on import, bringing them consistent and uniform supply locally. Our Smarter Sesame has improved yield, can be grown on dry land requiring very little water and resources and works excellently as a rotation crop, all in turn significantly reducing sesame’s global footprint,” he details.

In recent times, Gar has seen a movement for sesame paste. “Immigration has been a major influence, with immigrants bringing traditional/local cuisine to new regions across the world,” he continues. “Sesame is also a big contender in the plant-based market as it is very nutritious, containing a high content of protein and oil.”

New methods drive accurate production
“The world sesame market is currently worth almost US$10 billion,” says Gil Shalev, CEO and Co-Founder at Equinom. “We are dramatically developing the entire sesame value chain.”

Equinom’s smarter varieties also enable farmers to generate more accurate and pre-defined yields. This leads to more precise profit forecasting and assessments that greatly facilitate the execution of prospective contracts, providing all partners – grain handlers and farmers – with a safety net, by keeping supplies and prices stable.

Food security and stability during COVID-19
“Sesame has price fluctuations which are influenced by the capability to meet supply demands – supply is affected by the environment and this can impact the price. We believe our smarter sesame provides a solution which can reduce fluctuation. Increased yield and better performance of Smarter Sesame will also stabilize the price,” Gar explains.

The sesame market continues to grow, year on year and Gar believes that Equinom is the driving force of the advancement of sesame. “We strive to bring higher quality varieties that are more efficient and economical to help stabilize the market and bring Smarter Sesame to more locations across the globe.”

“The sesame industry is, by nature, prone to fluctuations and that makes it difficult for key parties in the supply chain to meet pledged output quotas,” continues Shalev. “Our solution removes a lot of the risks associated with yield inconsistencies and grants stakeholders a new sense of assurance. Even in times of crisis – such as with the current COVID-19 pandemic – food companies can rely on a secured supply of sesame.” Currently, amid the outbreak, its business as usual for Equinom. The company is also drafting new work plans to propel the industry despite the challenging border closures and transportation hurdles, notes Shalev.

Equinom’s breeding methods are proving to be instrumental in boosting access to high-value sesame. They are already transforming sesame into a lucrative cash crop for all stakeholders along the supply chain including farmers, traders and food manufacturers and new players are unlocking its vast potential. Traditionally, the food companies were levied with most of the risks. Equinom’s know-how and capabilities divides any such risk between all stakeholders giving all players greater flexibility.

“Today we are uniquely positioned to industrialize and better regulate the global sesame sector, bringing it to a new and more profitable phase by creating a more efficient path to market beginning at the seed level,” comments Shalev.

“Our work ethos firmly upholds the sustainable development goals outlined by the UN to promote economic growth and well-being. We also are able to meet the requisites of complete transparency and traceability from field to table as desired by our customers,” he concludes.

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