In the past 12 months, Farmers Business Network (FBN) has launched an e-commerce platform for farm inputs and a suite crop marketing offerings. Now the data, service and input provider is launching its own brand of seed and model for seed development and direct-to-farm distribution.
The new F2F Genetics Network, which launches this week, allows farmer members to purchase conventional (non-GM) and post-patent seeds in corn, soybeans, and other crops directly from the company. The varieties and hybrids will be developed by independent breeders and will be available to farmers at a significantly lower price than seed on the market today, say company leaders.
“This comes from four years of working with farmers find ways to make more profitable seed decisions,” says Charles Baron, co-founder of FBN. “Farmers are frustrated by the lack of independent information, zone pricing and the lack of pricing transparency. What we’re trying to do is take farmers form being consumers of seed to being co-creators of the seed, and that will benefit them directly through better prices and yield.”
The F2F Genetics Network program includes:
- This new distribution model allows FBN to bring transparency to seed prices, Baron says. Initial products will include five conventional corn hybrids and four Roundup Ready 1 soybean varieties. These seeds have thousands of acres of production history and are bred to be suitable in the mid-latitudes from Nebraska to Ohio.
- The seed offerings by FBN will include additional transparency including genetic identity, trial and field performance, seed parental lineages and relabeling matches. “We want farmers to know exactly what they’re planting before they buy.
- Farmers will work with directly with a network of university and independent breeders to provide input. “Today to reach the farmer they have to build their own brand or license through other companies,” says Ron Wulfkuhle, head of seed at FBN who will lead the F2F Genetics Network. “We provide a path to market to the breeders, creating more innovation and competition.”
- FBN members provide agronomic, planting and harvest data for their acres, which encompass 25 million acres across the US and Canada. As a result, FBN can create a feedback loop to breeders and accelerate the variety development process, Wulfkuhle says.
“What FBN is doing is getting the farmer as close to the breeder as possible,” Baron says. “And that reduces the cost of seed.”
- The genetics used to develop the varieties and hybrids will go through multiple years of testing, Wulfkuhle says. The breeders FBN is working with will providing two years of data across 30 to 60 different testing locations per year. After two years of breeder testing, the hybrids and varieties will be grown by a select group of FBN farmers.
“By placing with our members, we’ll understand performance in real-world farmer conditions, not typical testing locations,” Wulfkuhle says. “By the time they get to the farmer, we have a good idea of genetic performance.”
- The F2F Genetic Network will bring national, transparent pricing to farmers and eliminate the practice of zone pricing, according FBN. The conventional corn hybrids will cost $99 per bag and the soybean varieties will cost $29 per bag, Baron says.
“The average price in our system for conventional corn is $170 and stacked or traited seed is $270 per bag,” Baron says. “So, farmers will save on average 40% for conventional corn and if they are switching from traited to conventional, they can save up to 60%. This seed is high tech but given our model, we’re able to keep prices incredibly low.”
- Farmers will be able to save soybean seed to replant for the following year, as part of the Soy+1 program. “We will go to a lot of work to make sure the seed farmers keep is good seed and they aren’t planting grain,” Wulfkuhle says. “Once a farmer cleans and treats the seed, we’ll do an array of quality tests.”
Wulfkuhle says FBN is immediately prepared to start taking farmer orders and will offer interest-free financing until December of 2019. Additional hybrids and varieties will be added, as well as wheat and cover crop seed offerings.