Virentes is developing a high-throughput robot and a new, multi-rootstock grafting technology.
The robot uses specially designed arms to graft multiple plants while automatically performing activities such as trimming, clearing, and disinfecting. The robot is designed for ease of use and low maintenance. It will replace hundreds of laborers, significantly reducing current grafting costs.
The Virentes multi-rootstock grafting technology joins specially selected rootstocks to produce heartier plants and improve crop yields and resistance. The method will increase the plant’s ability to carry more crop and enable successful vegetable cultivation in difficult conditions.
This new grafting method changes the grafted plant’s physiology without altering its genetics.
In addition to increased throughput and reduced costs, Virentes’ robot and grafting technology offer significant value to growers.
Stage: Technology development
Founded: January 2014
Investor: The Trendlines Group
IP: Submitted two provisionals
Keren Kayemet l’Yisrael (KKL, Jewish National Fund) plants pine trees with Virentes’ double rootstock system at Gilat, the KKL center near S’derot in southern Israel.
Virentes began a collaborative trial of its multi-rootstock method on pine trees to be planted in Israel’s forests.
Virentes completed an additional year of field trials using the multi-rootstock grafting method on peppers at two sites in Israel’s Arava region: Moshav Ein Yahav and the Yair Experimental Station. One of the graft combinations at the Ein Yahav site showed a 26% increase in yield compared to the control group. One of the trials with the Marletta pepper at the Yair site showed a dramatic increase in yield — 230%.
Deteriorating soil quality, increasing regulations about the use of pesticides, and growing concerns about genetically modified plants are all driving the need for alternative solutions to produce durable, more resistant plants.
Plant grafting — combining a stronger root system (rootstock) with the desired plant variety (scion) — is used to improve the quality and performance of herbal plants such as vegetables and cut flowers, woody plants, and forest trees. The current common practice in plant grafting is a manual, highly labor-intensive operation, performed one plant at a time. Large nurseries require hundreds of experienced grafters to graft millions of plants. Inefficient grafting robots on the market mimic this labor-intensive procedure and provide limited improvements, so most large nurseries do not use them.
According to industry figures, approximately 3.9 billion grafted plants were sold worldwide in 2011, at a value of $2.76 billion. The market is growing at a rate of 15% annually. In Japan, more than 90% of the plants for watermelons, oriental melons, greenhouse cucumbers, tomatoes, and eggplants are grafted (Oregon State University). Due to the benefits, including higher yields and disease resistance, grafted plants command higher market prices. The ability to graft cannabis for medical, cosmetic, and recreational uses presents a tremendous opportunity for Virentes.
Watch the Virentes robot in action.
A close-up of a pine sapling with the Virentes double-root system.
The multi-rootstock method in use on pine trees to be planted in Israel's forest.
The Virentes multi-rootstock grafting technology in use on greenhouse pepper plants at a trial site in Israel.
Close-up of the Virentes multi-rootstock grafting technology.
Yuval Fradkin, CEO
Bayer Trendlines Ag Innovation Fund
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