Solynta, a Dutch potato breeding company, and PepsiCo’s Ethiopia-based Foods Unit, Senselet Food Processing PLC, have announced a joint venture to introduce hybrid true potato seeds (HTPS) to Ethiopia.
The collaboration aims to enrich and expand Ethiopia’s potato sector by introducing advanced potato genetics through Solynta’s non-GMO hybrid breeding technology. The project will focus on breeding desirable traits like pest resistance and hardiness in potatoes, improving food security and ensuring more sustainable income for local farmers.
Over the next three years, Ethiopian researchers and private farmers will test HTPS under local conditions to ensure their success. The partnership will also work closely with Ethiopian authorities to establish the legal framework for the import, registration, and certification of HTPS seed tubers.
The collaboration will train public and private researchers, officials, extension workers, and farmers to achieve maximum genetic potential from hybrid true potato seeds. Participants include researchers and officials from the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) in Addis Ababa and Amhara Agricultural Research Institute (ARARI) in Bahir Dar.
“Hybrid breeding drives the rapid development of new high-yielding, multi-resistant potato cultivars. These will significantly affect crop practices, productivity, and reliance on pesticides,” said Charles Miller, director of business development at Solynta.
The partnership aligns closely with the goals of the Ethiopia-Netherlands Seed Partnership (ENSP), established by the governments of Ethiopia and the Netherlands to strengthen the seed sector in Ethiopia. The mission of ENSP is to enable the private sector in Ethiopia to deliver high-quality seed of improved varieties much needed for food security, nutrition, and climate resilience.
The partnership between Solynta and PepsiCo’s Senselet aligns seamlessly with each company’s values and sustainability goals to improve the livelihoods of individuals in their respective agricultural supply chains and communities.
Since its establishment in 2017, Senselet has formed strong business partnerships with local farmers and commercial partners. The partnership with Solynta represents an agricultural partnership to ensure the quality and availability of ingredients.
PepsiCo is the leading Ethiopian potato processing company based in the country’s capital, Addis Ababa. The announcement of its cooperation with Solynta follows the recent news of PepsiCo’s $40 million cash injection to expand its business further in Ethiopia, a country poised for significant economic growth.
“This investment will further allow us to leverage PepsiCo’s global expertise to boost the business’ potato sourcing programs, as well as its manufacturing and go-to-market capabilities. The potential market for chips here is much larger than the existing market, and as such, there is a great need for more higher quality potato products,” said Chris Wijnterp, general manager of Senselet at the time of the investment announcement.
“We want to help build a more sustainable food system in Ethiopia by meeting human needs while bolstering global economic and social development within the planet’s natural boundaries.”
Potatoes are an instrumental source of nutritious food in Ethiopia, produced by about one million farmers supplying crops for local consumption as well as for the chip processing market. Solynta’s partnership with PepsiCo will support farmers to access the resources, starting material, and training they need to produce successful yields.
“Introducing our hybrid true potato seeds (HTPS) will guarantee clean starting material and help farmers overcome environmental challenges posed by disease and seed tuber transport. Through this partnership, we are dedicated to uplifting farmers by enhancing existing agronomic practices through grassroots training and capacity building,” said Miller.
The project furthers PepsiCo’s commitment to strengthening the potato value chain as part of its Pep+ (Pep positive) agenda, a new commitment to a strategic end-to-end transformation for the company.