Farmers Business Network "Shakes Things Up" with First of Its Kind Off-Patent Traited Corn LineWed, 13 Mar 2019 11:47:57 CDT
In just the few years since its inception, Farmers Business Network (FBN) has managed to change the way a growing number of farmers do business, in a bold attempt to disrupt the current model under which the ag industry operates. During the 2019 Commodity Classic in Orlando recently, Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Associate Farm Director Carson Horn had the chance to sit down with Ron Wulfkuhle, head of seeds for FBN’s new seed division, F2F Genetics Network, who has been charged with changing the way farmers buy their seeds.
This past August, Wulfkuhle says FBN launched its line of conventional corn hybrids. About a month ago, the company also launched its first traited corn line. Nonchalantly, Wulfkuhle remarked on the significance of this product and its potential to not only change how farmers buy seed, but completely revolutionize it.
“Quite frankly, that’s kind of what other companies are already doing in the industry,” Wulfkuhle said. “But, what we’ve just done is we’ve been able to put together what I would call off-patent traits. These are traits that the patents have expired on, but in new genetics. This is going to be the first time this type of technology has ever been planted in corn in the US.”
So, what does that mean for farmers? According to Wulfkuhle, it has the potential to bring real competition to the traited corn marketplace and give the genetic innovation companies a run for their money.
“Once we complete the development of these products, then farmers will be able to have an entire new range of options,” he said. “This is research right now. We still have a lot of work to do, but we’re really excited that we have these traits in hybrid corn and that they’re going in the field.”
According to FBN, farmers spend approximately $10 billion in corn seed a year, most of which goes through seed company licensing to the trait developers. However, FBN has discovered an opportunity to circumvent these companies and the associated costs of doing business through them by taking advantage of proprietary traits that have come off of patent protection or those that soon will.
“Farmers will remember most of these products were launched back in the 90s or early 2000s. The life of a patent is 20 years. And of course, the tech companies have filed a lot of intellectual property…,” Wulfkuhle explained. “So, we’ve spent a lot of effort with our legal counsel to work through and find a path that has clear freedom to operate and bring these products to the farmer. I believe it’s really going to change a lot of things in the industry.”
When pressed on whether or not FBN harbored any concern as to the possibility that the companies that pioneered these traits might retaliate, Wulfkuhle answered rather apathetically.
“That goes with the turf of trying to change the way an industry operates,” he said, citing as an example the rise of generics in the modern pharmaceutical world. “I believe we can bring real fierce competition for the farmers’ business. If that cycle can start operating in the way that it does in some other industries, I think the farmer benefits and so does the industry. The people that are the inventors if you will are going to have to invent. They won’t be able to just sit on technology that’s getting old.”
Wulfkuhle says that as the economics of farming continue to weigh more heavily on producers in this particularly difficult time for the ag industry, that the momentum behind this effort will only increase.
“If things stay the way they are, I can’t imagine our growth is going to slow down,” he concluded. “It’s just incredible how fast the business is growing and it’s because we’re really shaking things up for farmers.”
Listen to Wulfkuhle’s full conversation with Horn for more on FBN’s new venture, by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below.
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