Seed sector savvy
Seed company representatives brought their perspective to the table in discussions to forge stronger connections between the Center, seed markets, and customers
Ideas for collaboration germinated when representatives from eight seed companies—all members of the Asia & Pacific Seed Association (APSA)—and World Vegetable Center staff met for a roundtable discussion on 26 July 2016 at WorldVeg headquarters in Taiwan. APSA has been a long-time supporter of the Center’s research, and provides a strong link to the perspectives and needs of the private seed sector.
“The private seed sector is the right scaling partner for the Center,” said World Vegetable Center Director General Marco Wopereis. “With their outreach to farmers, they are absolutely essential for the Center to achieve its mission.” He observed that seed companies also can be conduits for other technologies along with seed, such as protected cultivation methods and good agricultural practices.
Company representatives from Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, India, and Bangladesh, together with APSA Executive Director Heidi Gallant, explored ways the Center could work with seed companies for mutual benefit. The creation of a subscription consortium was suggested as a more structured platform for interaction. “There are positives on both sides for a consortium,” Ms. Gallant said.
For consortium members, the Center would primarily focus on semi-finalized genetic material for tomato, pepper and cucurbits, offering first-use access—provided that data from trials is reported following a simple standard protocol to track the use and performance of desired traits such as bacterial wilt resistance or heat tolerance, along with some basic details on distribution and sales volume. This information is vital for the Center to hone its research agenda and demonstrate value to donors.
APSA members would like to see further work in rootstock development and new molecular markers, and expressed a need for targeted training to enhance skills of seed company staff. The Center will survey the association’s members to learn more about their specific areas of interest. Possibilities for producing joint hybrids and royalty sharing were also discussed. As Abdul Awal Mintoo, Chairman of the Multimode Group, said: “A public good is not good if the public does not have access,” and stressed that there are many models to exploit to achieve the goal of using the Center’s genebank and breeding capacity to the fullest.
VNR Seeds Pvt. Ltd., India, is one seed company that has greatly benefited from its relationship with the World Vegetable Center. First introduced to grafting 14 years ago by WorldVeg, VNR is now grafting and selling 3 million tomato seedlings annually. In 2015, the company introduced to farmers ‘VNR3357’ and ‘VNR3171’—two new tomato varieties with WorldVeg parentage. “We wouldn’t be in business without the Center,” said Vimal Chawda, VNR Managing Director.
A small working group will be formed to pursue the consortium concept and follow up on other ideas raised during the meeting.