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How an independent seed company cut out the middleman
Nate Belcher and Mike Ackerman have a history of providing farmers with choices that put more money in their pockets.
The duo based out of Omaha, Nebraska, founded their first company together, Cover Crop Exchange, in 2018. The online marketplace for cover crop seed varieties connects growers and buyers directly, eliminating the middleman and increasing profitability for both parties.
Their most recent venture, hybrid85, turns another traditional business model on its head. As an independent seed company, hybrid85 sells high-quality non-GMO seed corn for a savings upwards of $75 an acre.
Keep the Cut
Throughout Belcher’s career as a crop consultant and regenerative ag specialist, the repeated question he’s been asked by farmers is where to get good-quality genetics that aren’t so expensive.
Without a resource to turn their customers to, the pair began to explore how to bring an alternative to the typical $250 bag of seed to market. “Things really started happening when we met the right people with connections in the seed industry. We were able to partner directly with independent breeders and producers on the corn side to offer what these farmers have been asking us for so many years,” says Belcher.
A lot of what hybrid85 doesn’t do is what transfers savings to the farmer. “We don’t deal with trait varieties; we don’t have dealers or regional reps; the seed doesn’t come in a fancy bag; we don’t market on billboards,” Belcher explains. “At the end of the day, we cut everything we could to offer good-quality genetics at $85 per unit.”
An online-only company, orders are taken via the website, hybrid85.com, or the phone. Products ship directly from the warehouse. No other facilities exist.
What hybrid85 allows the buyer to do makes all the difference. By working directly with seed breeders, hybrid85 has the unique opportunity to develop hybrid solutions for farmers that address their needs and ensure performance, no matter the location.
Josh Buderus is one of those farmers. On 900 acres in Wisner, Nebraska, he grows corn and raises dairy cows. After searching online for conventional corn, he decided to put hybrid85 to the test on 50 acres.
Even during an imperfect growing season in 2019, the seed performed well. “The $85 bag outyielded the seed that would have cost me $285 per bag,” says Buderus. “It’s very good corn priced very economically.”
Reinvesting in the Farm
With the savings on inputs, Belcher hopes farmers will feel confident implementing regenerative practices.
“When you’re profitable, you’re not so worried about squeezing little margins out of every acre. It frees up emotional, mental, and financial resources to look at your farm differently and really ask how to do things better. Our goal is to help farmers be more profitable per acre,” he says.
Just like ag companies funnel a portion of revenue back into research, Belcher encourages customers to do the same and comments that an $85 bag of seed corn may be the cheapest research you’ll ever do.
“You can reinvest every year trying something new, even if it’s on a very small scale. The one out of 10 experiments that will succeed are likely the breakthrough moments on your farm, whether that’s the management practice, different crop rotation, different inputs, or seed variety,” Belcher says. “That’s going to take your farm to the next level. The most successful farmers I work with have that mentality.”