Harnessing Complex Data to Drive AgriTech Innovation

BY Don Maszle
March 31, 2021
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To feed our growing world, we will need to produce more food, more efficiently, as populations increase, as arable lands decrease, and as we push against yield losses and drags due to pests, disease, climate, and uncertainties in the supply chain. The industry also has to be good stewards of the land and continue to use and develop new sustainable practices that reduce chemical inputs while meeting the above needs and other consumer demands.

With nearly 200,000 people added to the world population each day, these challenges are as big as ever, and we’ll need all the tools at our disposal to address them.

 

The Changing Landscape of AgriTech

Through transformation and genetic breeding, biotechnology is providing sophisticated tools to agriculture to create more resilient and productive seeds, new protective chemical formulations, and new plant biostimulants. Over the last several decades, these advances in breeding methodologies have brought unprecedented growth to agricultural productivity. But these advances have also brought big data and new technological challenges to a traditional and practical industry.

Agriculture today deals with data at many levels, from the landscape and field scale of satellite and autonomous imagery, down to base level molecular changes in plant genotypes. Just as that data varies across scales, people’s roles and the ways they interface with that data also vary throughout the supply chain. Each type of data and each context within which data is viewed presents its own challenges and demands specific solutions.

 

The Challenge for Molecular Biologists: Lack of high-throughput tools limits productivity

Classical genetics approaches in agriculture are laborious and low-throughput, hindering the success or rapid application of these techniques in many plant species. Current innovations in agriculture demand a defter approach, the specificity of precise genome editing, and the ability to multiplex leads to find new genetic variants in less time.

Benchling’s Solution: Execute cutting-edge genetic engineering workflows from start to finish on a single software platform

Benchling Molecular Biology was developed with modern life science in mind. Scientists can efficiently design, analyze, and centralize in silico plasmids and their parts in a single location. Common functions such as plasmid design, alignments, translations, back-translations, and CRISPR gRNA design can all be conducted in bulk. This can save scientists days per week while improving the quality of their work and enforcing key validation rules such as sequence uniqueness. Over time, molecular biologists can build up a library of DNA parts in Benchling Registry that are searchable and shareable by others in their organization, preserving institutional knowledge and preventing work from being duplicated.

The Challenge for Transformation Scientists: Difficulty tracing from results to plant materials slows down cycles

Transformation is the introduction of a genetic design — a trait — into a particular plant material using molecular biology designs. The process may require multiple attempts, methods, or particular treatments to introduce the trait, and each may produce one or more new materials. For commercial products, these transformation events must be registered with a legal authority, providing all the context of how it was produced.

This process requires a formal lineage that understands the sequence nature of the data, as well as incorporation of many types of unstructured observation. Flexible end-to-end traceability and the ability to properly represent the underlying molecular biology and genetics are essential to success.

Benchling’s Solution: Generate transgenic plants more efficiently with end-to-end traceability and built-in data visualization

Benchling gives scientists a single place to track the full history of any experiment. Trace from any given result to the plant that produced it – then, trace the lineage of that plant all the way back to the sequence level. By tracking and connecting methodologies, plant material relationships, and results, scientists can develop a deeper understanding of transgenic plant creation.

Scientists can also use Notebook templates to record genetic modification methodologies in freeform entries and structured results tables, even as experimental needs vary, so they can remain nimble as processes evolve. By standardizing data capture in this way, scientists can use Benchling Insights to easily query results and probe the interrelations between transgenic plants and the corresponding bacterium, plant materials, and gene.

The Challenge for Plant Scientists: Scattered systems of record impede informed decision making

Plant scientists need to assess complex relationships and inferences across a matrix of genotype by environment by management practice. Each of those dimensions may bring data from one or more disciplines, types of acquisition systems, sensors, or unstructured observations. Time is wasted switching between systems and trying to connect the dots between them. In the end, the scientist may still not have a single way to interrogate or leverage information holistically to make timely and data-driven decisions.

Benchling’s Solution: Select desirable plants faster with a comprehensive view of relevant results and plant pedigree

By standardizing and centralizing data from across AgriTech R&D teams, Benchling makes it much easier for scientists to access and analyze results. They can seamlessly track and share information on plant material, samples, and inventory locations, significantly cutting down the amount of time it takes to communicate the full story behind an experiment. And with a bird’s-eye-view of results and plant pedigrees across multiple breeding experiments, scientists can make plant selection decisions much more quickly and confidently. In-product data visualizations make it even easier to share analyses and align on key decisions, helping AgriTech companies get better products to market sooner.

 

Nourishing a growing world

AgriTech – and the broader food & beverage and industrial biotech industries – has evolved tremendously over the past decade. We are proud to work with hundreds of leading companies that have helped develop new advances for society using the cutting edge tools of modern science and biotechnology. As both the challenges and potential of AgriTech grow and evolve, Benchling will remain committed to providing them solutions that suit their unique needs, from the lab to the greenhouse to the field.

 

Learn how Benchling can accelerate your agriculture R&D workflows.

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