Cacao Prieto & Cacao Biotech exclusively funded two laboratories at the Penn State University. We are also building two new laboratories in the Dominican Republic which we intend to be amongst the leading research facilities in the world devoted to advancing the science of cacao and to specifically preserving the bio-diversity of cacao in the Dominican Republic.
Our PSU team included Cacao Biotechnologies co-founders Dr. Mark Guiltinan and Dr. Siela Maximova.
Dr. Guiltinan is an elite geneticist and was the U.S team leader on sequencing the genome of Cacao, as published in Nature Genetics magazine
We have extensively surveyed more than 3000 kilometers of cacao country in the Dominican Republic, painstakingly collecting rare samples of cacao plants and hybrids. Over the past two years we have tested these samples with metalbolomics, proteomics and mass spectrometry/gas chromotography to identify high value traits in rare cacao hybrids. Examples of high value traits range from disease resistance, to superior organoleptic properties, to increased quantities of healthy compounds and compounds for pharmaceutical use.
It is important to note that we are applying the most cutting edge science and genetic analysis techniques to ensure the success of our classical breeding programs. We want to make absolutely clear that Coralina Farms is 100% organic and NON-GMO!
Once a valuable trait is identified in a hybrid, we take steps to protect and multiply the genetic collection. Cacao is unique in that seeds can not be saved. If dried or frozen the seeds become non viable and die. Cacao biodiversity must be preserved by propagating living collections. When a valuable plant is discovered it is typically the only one that exists in the world. If you plant the seeds from a unique plant, you will be getting different genetics in the seedling. The desirable trait you are hoping for is possibly lost (as seeds are produced by mating- 50% Genetic material from father & mother are shuffled and passed into the offspring). To multiply a single tree into a safe population, cuttings were previously the only method. There is a limit to how many cuttings can be taken from a mother tree (especially old trees) which hence limits the ability to get a new hybrid established in commercially viable amounts in an acceptable time. Cacao Prieto is pioneering the use of somatic embryogenesis, a non-GMO technique which allows us to collect the unopened flowers of a rare plant, dissect in a sterile environment, and grow out its cells on sugar solutions in petri dishes. These plant cells then divide to form embryos. Each flower can produce 8000 embryos, each of which will develop into plantlets just the same as a germinating seed. Every embryo will have an identical genetic structure to the mother flower. They are clones in just the same way a rooted cutting is a clone of the parent tree. In this way we have developed a method, a “pipeline” where we can create 8000 plants from one, which are then planted in a field as a high density- “germplasm repository”. In one year these plants are large enough to multiply further by harvesting cuttings, which are then rooted to place into production fields. From this step we can create approximately 80+ every 6 weeks from each of the 8000 trees.
Cacao is entering truly exciting times ! Perhaps more will be done in the next 10 years of our breeding program to selectively hybridize and preserve original varietals than had been done in the last 500 years.
All told we will be generating 20,000,000 new trees in the next 10 years and planting more than 2,000,000 new trees on our own land.