Seed World

Quality is Still Job No. 1

Gro Alliance

A third-generation seedsman, Jim Schweigert grew up in the family seed business and was exposed to industry issues at an early age. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in public relations from the University of Minnesota and worked for corporate public relations firms in Minneapolis, Chicago and Atlanta before joining the family business full time in 2003. He has since been active in the American Seed Trade Association, the Independent Professional Seed Association and earned his master’s in seed technology and business from Iowa State University. As president, Schweigert manages client contracts and crop planning, as well as business development and new market opportunities. His unique background and experience make him one of the seed industry’s leaders in innovation. As such, he was honored as Seed World’s 2009 Future Giant and currently serves as chair of the board of directors for Seed Programs International.

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Farm and seed industry publications are filled with articles on how businesses need to differentiate themselves in an era of margin constraints and supplier pressure. Many focus on segments of the business that aren’t directly tied to product performance. They discuss areas such as distribution, marketing approaches and aggregating farmer data. Heck, most of my articles on business subjects tend to focus on those very items too.

We can sometimes assume the basic blocking and tackling is being done and miss what’s important. But because of the competitive nature of the business, nothing can be taken for granted and a laser focus needs to be on the absolute, most important aspect of the seed business. 

Seed quality is still Job No. 1.  

Seed quality is the all-encompassing term that refers to germination, trait purity, genetic purity, physical seed purity, seed appearance, seed uniformity, seed treatment coverage accuracy and vigor. All those combined factors directly impact the farmer’s yield prospects. 

I have no doubt that every seed company wants to have high quality seed. A quick scan of seed company websites illustrates the importance of seed quality in marketing messages and brand positioning. Virtually every seed brand touts its seed quality as the best in the industry and they stress the high standards to which their seed is held. This makes sense, seed quality is quite literally what the farmer is paying for.

But lower margin times can shift the focus from quality to the bottom line. Rather than making investments to continue or improve seed quality, dollars may get allocated to other priorities that the company believes give it a marketplace advantage or brand differentiation. 

Ironically, by maintaining the focus on seed quality, companies will achieve the advantages and differentiation they seek. Farmers are more astute at measuring seed quality than ever before. They scrutinize the evenness of emergence, count the stand and analyze yield data on every acre. Seed quality cannot be hidden, and those with the best seed quality will be revealed and over time. Their hybrids will demonstrate better stands, resiliency to early planting and generate more yield per acre than their competitors. Farmers will, in turn, will reward those companies by being a repeat customer. 

In an era where brands are working hard to stand out in a crowded marketplace, the highest quality seed still wins!