Seed World

Capitalizing on the Lower Yielding: Q&A with Jim Schweigert

For Jim Schweigert, president of Gro Alliance, finding opportunity is a specialty — especially when that opportunity seems to come from lower yielding acreage.

Seed World (SW): What’s your No. 1 hobby?

Jim Schweigert (JS): Definitely running. I travel a lot and running is a great way to stay healthy and explore new places. I also really enjoy the quiet, alone time it provides. I get a lot of ideas while out for a run. Plus, my wife is an elite runner and a member of the amateur Team USA for triathlon, so I have to at least stay in decent shape!

SW: Best way to spend a Friday night?

JS: A little more than a year ago, my wife and I started Champagne Fridays. We had a few weeks with great news to celebrate and thought it would be fun tradition to continue. It can be easy to dwell on challenges or missed opportunities, so a glass of champagne on Friday night has become our way to reflect back on the positives from the past week and celebrate all the small victories.

SW: What drew you to start doing custom breeding services in Chile?

JS: Our U.S. nursery business was really growing, and we noticed that our clients were contracting with multiple nursery providers in Chile for counter-season work. Most of those clients weren’t 100% satisfied with the service and communication and every provider there had different requirements and protocols. We saw this as an opportunity to partner with a quality service provider in Chile, CIS Semillas, and streamline the entire process for breeders by giving them one relationship for both hemispheres. The result was our joint venture, CIS Alliance. The response has been phenomenal. Our nursery has filled up each year with projects involving 15 crop species from companies North and South America, Europe and Asia.

SW: How’d you come up with the concept of the “Lower 50% acres” for Breeder Direct?

JS: The Lower 50% concept emerged from several brainstorming sessions in which we discussed the profitability of acres that don’t have the potential to generate top yield. Those acres aren’t able to capitalize on the genetic potential of the most elite corn hybrids. Companies try to get seed on these acres by using older hybrids from carryover. We thought: “What if we could access, test and make strong agronomic hybrids available to seed companies at a lower cost?” 

This led to the Lower 50% concept for Breeder Direct. For the acres that generate top yield and top income, the elite hybrids at higher prices make sense. For the acres that don’t have that potential, a solid agronomic hybrid at a lower price point creates more margin opportunities for seed companies and farmers.

SW: What’s something you’re looking forward to in 2021? 

JS: The return of in-person conferences! I stayed active with domestic travel in 2020 by following safety protocols, but there is nothing like bringing the industry together to discuss policy and build relationships face-to-face.