Brazil, Colombia...Norwich: How new coffee varieties are being developed here

The Tropic Biosciences team - From left: Dr Cristina Pignocchi, Dr Daniel Knevitt, Dr Eyal Maori, Gi

The Tropic Biosciences team - From left: Dr Cristina Pignocchi, Dr Daniel Knevitt, Dr Eyal Maori, Gilad Gershon, Dr Yaron Galanty. Picture: New Anglia LEP - Credit: Archant

Brazilian or Colombian coffee has a ring to it: a certain aroma, taste and reputation.

So what would you say if a barista offered you a cup of Norwich coffee?

It sounds strange, if not outlandish - but it could be a reality. For new strains of coffee plant that will help sustain the industry worldwide are to be developed in Colney on the egde of our fine city.

Tropic Biosciences is bringing together some of the world's leading experts in plant genome technology for a project to develop new varieties of coffee plant, ready to be made available under licence to growers worldwide.

The £133,000 project has been made possible with a £60,000 grant from the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative.

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It will create jobs for a full-time researcher and part-time technician, to be recruited locally.

The work will be carried out at Tropic Biosciences' base on Norwich Research Park, part of New Anglia LEP's Space to Innovate Enterprise Zone and a world-renowned cluster for research and development in food science.

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Dr Eyal Maori and Gilad Gershon, founders of Tropic Biosciences, said: 'As with any global market, the coffee industry constantly faces new challenges, with growers seeking new varieties of plants that offer stronger resistance to disease, higher yield and better quality.

'It's our aim to use our expertise in genome technology to answer some of the challenges faced by growers.'

They added: 'We made a specific decision to base ourselves at Norwich Research Park because of the phenomenal, world class talent and expertise already working here at institutions like the world-renowned John Innes Centre and the Sainsbury Laboratory, and for the equally impressive research and laboratory facilities such a site brings.'

Tropic's team of scientists will use advanced genome editing techniques to develop commercially beneficial traits in existing coffee varieties.

The first young plants to bear the new traits are likely to be produced within 18 months.

Mark Reeve, Chairman of the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative Board, said: 'The East of England is leading the way in research and development within the food and drink sector.'

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