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Farmers Business Network Launches New Seed Business

FBN officials say its F2F Genetics Network will bring conventional seed to farmer-members at lower prices.

Farmers Business Network (FBN) is getting into the seed business.

The farmer-to-farmer network today unveiled its F2F Genetics Network, which the firm says will bring farmers conventional (nongenetically modified and post-patent seed) in corn, soybeans, and other crops to FBN’s 7,000-member farms. 

“We’re putting together a network of breeders from which we can work with on developing soybean varieties and corn hybrids that we can bring directly to farmers,” says Ron Wulfkuhle, FBN head of seed who will lead the F2F Genetics Network.

He adds that the new network will operate under the same principle regarding data and price transparency as does FBN. The F2F Genetics Network will concentrate on nongenetically modified (conventional) seeds. FBN officials say they have picked up more interest among farmer-members in conventional seed due to tightening crop production margins.

“Genetics is what drives yield,” says Wulfkuhle. “The current traits on the market protect that yield, such as (resisting damage) from (European) corn borer.” In the absence of pests like ECB and corn rootworm, they do not bring value, he adds.

The F2F Genetics Network will use a new model that combines an independent breeder network with FBN’s farmer-to-farmer network and its agronomic data science platform. Within FBN, farmers share agronomic data from which they can benchmark their agronomic performance for an annual membership fee of $700.    

“We have the largest set of farm data that’s made transparent to farmers on product performance,” says Wulfkuhle. “So, it really sets the stage for us to find seed varieties and hybrids that will fit farmers.

Breeder Network

“This is one of the little-known facts about the corn industry – there are more than 30 independent breeders who exist who develop corn inbreds and hybrids available to the multinationals,” says Wulfkuhle. These breeders also work with foundation seed companies who also make hybrids available to independent companies (and those individual brands) who then sell those products to famers.

By working directly with breeders, the F2F Genetics Network can cut steps out of this network. This helps enable the F2F Genetics Network to slice seed prices, say FBN officials. 

“These are unique genetics that the farmer is not going to find at most companies,” says Wulfkuhle. “By cutting out steps of the value chain, we’re able to offer these at an incredible favorable price to the farmer,” he adds. “Farmers will be able to purchase them (conventional corn hybrids) at $99 (per bag on a national average),” says Wulfkuhle. That compares to conventional genetics priced at around $160 to $165 per bag (national average).”

That’s based on analyzing over 16,000 bag tags and invoice records. “That’s allowed us to do cross matching of genetics and price transparency on hundreds of seed products,” adds Charles Baron, FBN cofounder and vice president.

Specifics

Here’s some more information from the company news release about the F2F Genetics Network.

  • Performance. The firm will have flexibility to select and target the highest performing genetics from its independent breeder network, say company officials. Farmers’ seed-soil placement, population, fertility, and disease management will be assisted through the FBN’s analytics network.
  • Transparency. FBN members will get for the first time greater transparency on genetic identity, trial and yield performance, and pricing, say FBN officials. Genetic identity, seed parental lineages, and relabeling matches will be shown up front. FBN members will be able to access precommercial breeder trial and actual in-field performance from other FBN members, instead of just the “promotional” test plots traditionally used to sell seed, say FBN officials.
  • Pricing. The F2F Genetic Network will use national, transparent pricing and eliminate the practice of discriminatory regional zone pricing, says FBN officials.   
  • Saving seed. Seed companies have barred U.S. soybean farmers from saving seeds after harvest to plant the following season at a vastly lower cost – which has allowed seed companies to charge full price every year, says FBN officials. The F2F Genetics Network’s Soy 1 program will allow farmers, for a fee, to keep, clean, and replant F2F Genetic Network-branded soybean seeds.

Seed Availability for 2019

FBN officials say orders and commitments for F2F Genetics Network seed have already commenced, with a limited supply available for the 2019 season. Initial products will include five conventional corn hybrids (relative maturities 102 – 112 days) and four glyphosate-tolerant soybean varieties (relative maturities 2.2 – 3.1). FBN officials say these seeds have multiple years of production history and are bred to be suitable in the midlatitudes from Nebraska to Ohio. Additional hybrids and varieties, as well as other crops are rapidly being added to the network, say company officials.

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