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2019-08-20 07:15

Success of the Agroplasma's breeding program

When 19 years ago a small group of ambitious Kuban breeders decided to organize a high-tech seed breeding company, their only capital was the Soviet experience of breeding work and practical knowledge of Western marketing. Lenta.ru talks about how the company from Krasnodar became not only a competitor for the world's leading seed producers, but also overtook them in terms of sales.

Alien Seed

In the 60s of the last century, the Soviet scientific school of selection of agricultural plants was on the rise. Half of Europe's fields were sown with our seed material. But the further development of Soviet breeding was not so successful. And after the collapse of the Soviet Union in Russia in the 90s, breeding institutions practically ceased to exist. The industry was not ready for stiff competition with the leading Western producers. All attempts of the state to financially support individual breeding enterprises have not led to success. As a result, the Russian breeding science has lost not only its technical base, but also its unique specialists.

At present, the "seed" import dependence of Russian agrarians on some crops reaches 95 percent. Imported seeds of sugar beet, corn, sunflower, potatoes, soybeans are most in demand among our agricultural producers. For example, seed potatoes are imported from Holland and Germany, sunflower seeds and corn from France.

Despite the rich Russian experience in developing new varieties, few domestic breeders manage to defeat foreign competitors. This despite the fact that the use of expensive imported seeds significantly reduces the profitability of production. Therefore, many experts of the agricultural market believe that the revival of the domestic seed industry is a guarantee of food security in the country.

Good seedlings

Russian "Agroplasma" is a rare example of breeding and seed production enterprise, which successfully competes with leading world companies.

Nineteen years ago, when a professional Kuban breeder Nikolai Benko and a group of like-minded people created a seed breeding company from scratch, they had neither government support nor investors.

But there was a good experience. Benko spent 17 years in corn breeding at the Lukyanenko Krasnodar Research Institute of Agriculture under the guidance of the famous academician Mikhail Khadzhinov, the chief breeder of Soviet corn. Then, already in "new" times, he managed to work in one of the largest American companies in sunflower breeding - Cargill. Combining the acquired practical knowledge in the field of commerce and marketing with his experience in breeding, Nikolai Benko and his partners created a company of a full cycle on the western sample (from selection of varieties and production of seeds to their implementation).

As you know, each seed knows its time. At that time, hybrids of sunflower were in great demand in the Russian market, so we decided to start with their selection. Later it was time for sorghum. The choice of these crops is explained by their rare drought resistance and multipurpose use.

At present "Agroplasma" is the largest producer of seeds of hybrid sunflower, corn and sorghum in Russia. The company's hybrids have been sown on 600 thousand hectares of Russian land. Kuban breeders are the country's only exporters of sunflower and sorghum hybrids seeds. The company's hybrids are registered in Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Turkey and Ukraine.

Parent lines and hybrids are produced in several regions of Russia, Turkey and Pakistan. Perfectly pure seeds are produced in Pakistan, where Agroplasma is working on parental forms in winter. The fact is that in many areas of Pakistan sunflower is almost not sown and fields with its crops are well isolated. In Russia, this highly profitable crop is grown everywhere, so it is impossible to obtain genetically pure seed material.

Seed refinement is carried out at a modern plant in Krasnodar region. For check of genetic purity all lots of realized seeds pass additional check by a method of ground control in field conditions of Pakistan, DNA-analysis is used also. All lots that do not meet GOST are discarded.

There is a continuous working process at the Agroplasma breeding station in Krasnodar Krai. More than two thousand potentially new hybrids are tested here every year. In order to determine the hybrids most adapted to specific soil and climatic conditions, the company annually conducts more than three thousand variety trials (trials on variety trials of agricultural crops - Lenta.ru) in all regions of Russia.

In order to obtain new genetic plasma, scientists of the company actively cooperate with leading breeding organizations from all over the world.

Nikolay Benko, the founder and permanent director of Agroplasma, considers himself a happy man, and all the plants created by the company are members of his family: "The variety is sometimes created for decades. First children, then grandchildren, great-grandchildren... This is a large family of plants with which I live. The breeders are people in bondage, they are given tasks by their managers. And I'm a lucky man. It's up to me to decide how many children I'm going to have, what kind of nationality. I work with sunflower, corn, sorghum, that is, I am engaged in various forms of "education" of my children - plants.

We got caught up and we got away with it.

To date, the company has 29 registered hybrids of sunflower and 9 transferred to the State Sort Test, 12 hybrids and varieties of sorghum, 12 hybrids of corn. But science does not stand still, so breeders of "Agroplasma" closely follow the world trends in seed production.

Agroplasma" managed to avoid staff shortage, because initially Nikolay Benko gathered a team of specialists, who grew up with the company. As they say, by seeds and seedlings. Over time, they have turned into high-end professionals - geneticists, agronomists, engineers, sales managers. This skeleton has been preserved even today. During the formation of the company there were 5 employees, now there are about 50 people working there.

The company has an extensive distribution network in 40 regions of Russia as well as in Kazakhstan, Belarus, Pakistan and Ukraine. In working with partners and customers Agroplasma pays attention to the reliability of counterparties, check which helps SME Business Navigator Portal.

The Business Guide for SMEs was developed by the Federal Corporation for Small and Medium Enterprise Development as a free tool for financial and non-financial measures to support small and medium businesses. On the portal, beginners and experienced entrepreneurs can online choose a competitive business in one of the 177 largest cities in Russia, calculate an approximate business plan, find a rental space, get credit support from the bank and much more. Financial support allows you to get the necessary funds for doing business, and access to purchases of the largest companies with state participation can open additional opportunities for business development. And all this for free and without advertising.

For 19 years, the dynamically developing "Agroplasma" has become a powerful breeding and seed production enterprise, successfully competing with the world's leading companies. The director of the company "Agroplasma" Nikolay Benko considers that "the reason of efficiency and viability of the company - in professionalism at creation of competitive products, in efficiency and flexibility at decision-making". The number of Russian and foreign agricultural producers who appreciated its products is constantly growing. Therefore, annual sales volume of seed material increases on average by 25 percent.

According to Nikolay Benko, the founding fathers of the company have set themselves very ambitious goals from the very beginning. It was decided not only to compete with the leading Western companies, which densely captured the Russian seed market, but also to overtake them in terms of sales. And while Khrushchev's famous promise to "catch up with and overtake America" eventually turned out to be propaganda bravado, Nikolai Benko and his partners succeeded.

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