Blair Bruns, Account Executive, Rooster Strategic Solutions

According to Assyrian legend, when the gods met, they toasted each other with wine made from sesame seeds. In truth, production dates back more than 5,500 years, making sesame the world’s oldest oilseed crop. Its uses are countless, from cooking oils to baked goods to McDonalds’ hamburger buns. It’s an excellent source of fiber, iron, calcium, magnesium, and other essentials, leading many to call it the world’s healthiest food.

And if a company named Equinom has its way, you’re going to see a lot more of it grown in the United States.

Equinom was founded in 2012 by Gil Shalev and is a built on a hybrid approach to plant genetics and breeding. Computer algorithms analyze millions of different breeding combinations focusing on specific characteristics, such as nutritional value, drought resistance, or yield; conventional crossbreeding techniques then validate the approach to bring application-based solutions to world growers.

I met Shalev in Israel last March as part of a trip with the Illinois Ag Leadership Program. I was blown away, both by Equinom’s rapid rise – the young company has already become the world’s largest provider of sesame – as well as their aggressive plans to market a new, shatter-resistant, non-GMO variety of sesame in the U.S. southern plains.

Shattering the Shatter Barrier. Sesame seed is a relatively delicate crop that’s similar in many respects to canola. The seeds are protected by a capsule that bursts when the seeds are ripe. This bursting, or “dehiscence,” can vary from plant to plant. Most of the world’s production is harvested by hand to prevent “shatter,” the damage to seeds that reduces grain quality and lowers prices.

By creating a high-yield, shatter-resistant variety that can be harvested with a conventional combine, Equinom hopes to satisfy more growers in the U.S., Australia, and Europe.

Low rainfall, no problem. Sesame is called a “survivor crop” because it’s highly resistant to drought and grows best in hot, arid climates – the same areas where cotton tends to thrive – such as China, Ethiopia, India, and Myanmar. Equinom plans to add Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas to this list, increasing sesame acreage in the southern plains where it can serve as a high-value rotational crop alongside sorghum. The company has field plots established in 17 locations and is working closely with key growers in all three states this year to increase production and monitor success.

If you have farmer friends, clients, or partners in the plains who grow wheat, sorghum, cotton, or corn, send them the link to this article. And if you or they have questions about sesame, I’d love to have a conversation.

Equinom is also hosting a free webinar titled: “Making Cultivation Financially Profitable and Optimizing Farm Potential with Smarter Sesame” on December 4th at 10 a.m. CST. Sign up here to learn more: