RQS Pro: Get To Know Our Global Head Of Breeding
At RQS Pro, our talented team of breeders and researchers are putting their heads together to create the most sustainable and reliable cannabis starting material available. Below, get to know one of our vital team members, and take a look behind the curtain. In this interview, we get key insight from the Global Head of Breeding, Andreu Francés. Having achieved a master’s degree in plant genetics and breeding from the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Andreu is responsible for our breeding programs to create incredible cannabis varieties.
What are your main duties at RQS Pro?
My main duties at RQS Pro are to coordinate and supervise our breeding programs for developing new inbreeding lines and hybrid varieties of cannabis. My main responsibilities include planning the breeding strategy, developing the breeding design, selecting starting material, and overseeing breeding operations across all stations to achieve our long-term breeding goals.
Can you tell us more about a specific project you are working on to give us some insight regarding your daily tasks?
Currently, I am working on a breeding program where we are developing inbreeding lines with different chemotypes. The goal of this project is to obtain commercial hybrids for different segments (flowers and biomass industry), cannabinoids (THC/CBD/CBG), and terpene profiles. At present, we are conducting tests to evaluate the General Combining Ability (GCA) of the inbreeding lines developed. My current daily tasks are focused on improving phenotyping procedures and protocols, analyzing the phenotyping data, performing statistical analysis on data sets, managing our plant breeding software, and identifying and selecting the best phenotypes that show economically valuable traits.
RQS Pro is a company born from the innovators at Royal Queen Seeds, with a focus on B2B and research. What are your goals for the next 5 years?
Our goals for the coming 5 years are to develop a portfolio of true varieties that meet the needs of the professional market, while also offering something different to the plant material supplied by traditional seed banks. RQS Pro will supply hybrid seeds, seedlings, cuttings and tissue culture material to satisfy the recreational, pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industries all over the world. Moreover, we expect that in 5 years our breeding programs will be more efficient, since we are currently working on some basic research projects that will help us to speed up our breeding activities.
When did you start working in the cannabis industry? What were your motivations?
I started working in the cannabis industry 3 years ago at Royal Queen Seeds, where I have learned a lot about the cannabis plant. However, my professional career with cannabis started much earlier during my biology degree at university, where I had the opportunity to develop my own project titled “Analysis of the Production of Cannabinoids in Cannabis sativa for Therapeutic Use”. As a scientist, I have always been attracted to the biology and cultivation of cannabis. Moreover, due to the legal situation around the world, there are still many opportunities for the genetic improvement of cannabis, and that motivates me to continue researching this plant.
How do you think the cannabis industry will evolve? What are some key research topics for the coming years?
The cannabis industry is evolving very quickly as new legislation is implemented, resulting in a more professional market and new opportunities. The European cannabis market is projected to reach a value of €3.2 billion in 2025. My vision is that the cannabis industry will evolve to become a more sustainable model with an improved legal framework, and that we will see significant advancements in the development of cannabis genetics and products. From a research point of view, the cannabis industry will follow all the scientific advances that have been achieved in horticultural crops.
Currently, there are many private companies, universities, and institutions that are working on the genetic improvement of cannabis. In these settings, some key developments in the coming years will stem from the application of novel biotechnological tools such as CRISPR, TILLING, GMO, and doubled haploids.
What are the main goals for genetic improvements in cannabis? Will the professional market be based on seeds or cuttings?
I believe there are two important goals for the genetic improvement of cannabis. First, the uniformity of the varieties propagated by seeds; this goal has been achieved in the horticulture sector, but not yet in cannabis. For this reason, the professional market continues to use cuttings for flower production. However, with the introduction of hybrid seeds, there will be no need to use cuttings anymore, in the same way that they are not used in other crops such as tomatoes. The second goal for genetic improvement is the enhancement of valuable traits. In the coming years, there will be varieties with new cannabinoids and improved terpene profiles. A challenge for genetic improvement is obtaining varieties resistant to diseases such as powdery mildew, Botrytis, and Fusarium; as well as varieties resistant to water stress. Finally, there will be varieties with more compact structures and maximized reproductive tissues designed to be compatible with automated harvesting.
What’s the difference between the plant material provided by RQS Pro vs other sources?
The main difference between the RQS Pro material and that from the rest of the market is that we provide hybrid seeds resulting from crossing two different inbreeding lines with a high degree of homozygosity. For this reason, farmers can obtain more uniform plants growing our material than growing that from other sources. For example, recently we carried out a comparative test between our hybrid seeds and those from elsewhere. We found that our hybrids showed a higher cannabinoid content, higher yields, and less variation in all traits evaluated (e.g. plant height, stem diameter, and number of nodes).