Seed World

Dave Hansen has a Front Row Seat for the Next Ag Revolution

Dave Hansen of Canterra Seeds.

Growing up in Victoria, B.C., David Hansen didn’t see himself in agribusiness. In fact, he had no understanding or appreciation of agriculture. His destiny was in law enforcement and the RCMP.

“When I graduated high school, I was in fact too young to apply to the RCMP. I went to Saskatchewan for a brief holiday, that included time with relatives who owned a small family farm in the Melfort area. This first-ever experience of the farm at harvest literally set the stage for what would become a life long career in ag. This was truly an amazing experience for me compared to life I knew as a kid growing up in Victoria,” says the 59-year-old president and chief executive officer of Winnipeg’s Canterra Seeds.

(Listen to Dave Hansen talk about the paradigm shift that took place within the industry when hybrid canola took off.)

At the conclusion of harvest, Hansen was offered a position with Continental Grain, working in a small country grain elevator. Hansen spent the next 10 years, involved in the grain industry, in Saskatoon and later in Winnipeg, working as a grain merchant, primarily in the canola and feed grains business. In the mid 1980s Hansen made a decision to make the move to the organization’s global seed business, Conti Seed, who were in the very early stages of commercializing the very first Polima based canola hybrids. These hybrids were coming from the sister company Pacific Seeds in Australia and Mr. Greg Buzza.

“At the time, I didn’t know how significant an event this was in setting the stage for what would become a complete revolution in terms of the advancement of canola industry in Western Canada. The evolution of the canola hybrid seed industry, new hybrid systems, herbicide resistance traits, and so on. Who could have predicted what was to come?”

(Hansen talks about working with the industry’s best to help hybrid canola take off in Western Canada.)

Fast forward to today, and Hansen is in a position to help lead what he sees as the second revolution in Canadian seed — the dawn of a new era in the world of cereals.

Not only does Canterra Seeds have the broadest seed portfolio in Western Canada — offering canola, cereals, pulses, corn, soybeans and special crops — it has partnered with France’s Limagrain to form Limagrain Cereals Research Canada, which is developing what Hansen says will be game-changing cereal varieties for growers — with a focus on spring wheat.

For Hansen, partnering with Limagrain made all the sense in the world. Two like-minded organizations who have a clear focus on seed and both companies created by farmers — for farmers. Hansen has made a career of taking advantage of opportunities, appreciating the value of partnerships, and more importantly, understanding the customer is the farmer.

“Hybrid canola was both the evolution of a crop that has dominated the Prairies for the past 20 years, and the private seed industry in Canada, at the same time. In the early years, marketing and selling hybrid canola was very much a different ball game. We had a unique opportunity to do something very different. To bring a new value proposition to the farmer. It started out doing simple things, such as creating a brand, seed packaging, revising seed distribution channels, learning how to actually sell both the concept and the value of hybrids. We had a lot of fun, developing demo trials for the growers, hosting field days for the farmers and industry alike. They were fun times. It was something new and something exciting for everyone. As they say, the rest is history.”

But for Hansen, the best is yet to come. He sees wheat as the last bastion for the plant breeding industry. Wheat is the single largest crop type worldwide, and yet it’s the crop that has seen the least amount of investment.

“What we have learned from corn, soybeans, canola and other such major crop types can be applied to wheat. If we are serious about feeding the world, we also need to be serious about wheat. The tools are all there and now is the time for next crop revolution. And just as we have seen what can be done with corn and canola, we can and will do the same for wheat.”

(Hear Dave Hansen talk about Canterra Seeds’ success in the market and the benefits of working amongst multinationals.)