According to Wired, Boulder, Colorado’s Front Range Biosciences—a producer of “marijuana plants free of viruses and bacteria”—is expanding their crop diversity to include coffee plants and have agreed to give 3 million plants over the next four years to Frinj Coffee. Much like coffee trees, cannabis plants are susceptible to bacteria and diseases that drastically affect their output. To combat this, Front Range Biosciences has created a “clean stock” system of cloning plants that uses tissue grafts to ensure that just the plants themselves get duplicated, not any of the nasty diseases they may carry.
And Front Range is now using the same process for cloning coffee plants. These lab-cloned plants provide a secondary benefit of allowing Frinj to know exactly what coffee variety they are growing. According to the article wind-pollinated coffee trees often lead to wild hybridization, making it difficult to know the exact genetic makeup of each new plant. But because everything is controlled in the lab, spontaneous hybrids aren’t an issue.
Front Range will also keep a tissue repository of the different coffee varieties—including Geisha, what Frinj is growing. Because a farm full of cloned single variety plant lack genetic diversity—an important factor in keeping entire crops from being wiped out by disease—having this stockpile they can easily replicate is crucial.
“That’s the tradeoff you get,” says [Front Range CEO Jon] Vaught. “There is some risk associated with just having lots of the same one, but at the same time it’s worth it. We can keep tens, hundreds, thousands of unique varieties safe and sound, so that if you did have something that got wiped out, you could go back and deploy it.”
Front Range Biosciences has plans to do the same cloning for bananas, sugar, and hops some time in the future. But right now they’re bread and butter are coffee and cannabis. Which begs the question, can these cannabinerds hybridize coffee and cannabis to create a THC-rich coffee cherry? It would be really nice to stop having to put all that butter in my coffee.