As demand for omega-3s EPA and DHA continues to rise and pressures on fish stocks increase, alternative sources are being explored from algae to copepods and genetically engineered oil seed crops, such as canola and camelina.
Professor Johnathan Napier, PhD, and his team at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, UK have been developing Camelina with increased levels of EPA and DHA for about a decade. Prof. Napier’s team has also carried out multi-year field trials and multiple feeding studies using the DHA+EPA Camelina oil in different fish species including salmon.
According to a 2015 paper in the European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology, Prof Napier stated: “Since Camelina as an oilseed crop can easily yield 0.75 ton of oil/ha, then a GM oil containing similar levels of EPA and DHA to that found in fish oils could make a significant contribution to off‐setting oceanic sources. For example, 200,000 ha of GM Camelina could produce 150,000 metric tons of oil, which could serve as a direct replacement for fish oils in aquafeed, representing 15% of the global oceanic harvest of these oils.”
Under the new collaboration agreement, Yield10 will provide support to Prof. Napier’s ongoing research including further DHA+EPA trait improvement, field testing and nutritional studies. In addition, the Massachusetts-based company has an exclusive two-year option to sign a global, exclusive or non-exclusive license agreement to the omega-3 technology.
“Yield10 is developing Camelina as a platform crop for the production of nutritional oils and PHA biomaterials and we believe there is significant market opportunity for omega-3 oils produced in Camelina and the technology developed by Professor Napier and his team at Rothamsted is highly complementary to our development efforts in Camelina,” said Oliver Peoples, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of Yield10 Bioscience.
“The Rothamsted team has successfully illustrated the key steps in a potential path for commercial development for the technology including stably deploying the DHA+EPA omega-3 oil pathway in Camelina, conducting field tests at scale in the UK and Canada, and publishing feeding studies to demonstrate the nutritional properties of the oil.
“Under this collaboration, we will have the opportunity to further assess the omega-3 oil technology and ongoing progress by Rothamsted while Yield10 continues to focus on developing elite varieties of Camelina and establishing a strategic business plan to identify opportunities for commercial development for this high value oil.”
Professor Angela Karp, Rothamsted director and CEO, added: “Yield10 shares our vision for developing Camelina as a commercial crop for omega-3 oils based on a land-based route to production.
“Successful commercialization of this technology could have significant benefits, offering sustainable production of an oil essential for nutrition and wellness to consumers, as well as providing crop diversification to growers. Yield10 has described numerous innovations for improving the performance of Camelina and has demonstrated commitment and leadership in the development of Camelina as a new commercial crop. We look forward to advancing our mission of improving sustainable agriculture working with the Yield10 team.”
Rothamsted is not alone in exploring the potential production of long-chain omega-3 in transgenic plants. Others – notably Nuseed and Cargill (working with BASF) – are exploring the potential of engineered canola to produce EPA and DHA, with Nuseed already achieving regulatory approval in a number of countries. Nuseed has estimated that one hectare of its omega-3 canola has the potential to provide the omega-3 yield from 10,000 kgs of wild caught fish.