Two Canadian seed companies have joined forces and are showing — in an industry where mergers and acquisitions often steal headlines — that smaller, independent businesses are as relevant as ever.
At its 2016/17 dealer launch held the last week of September in Winnipeg, Semences Prograin and Manitoba’s Quarry Seed came together to announce Quarry’s exclusive distribution of Prograin soybean varieties in Western Canada.
Founded in 2002, Quarry Seed has quickly become a major player in the distribution of soybean and corn seed in Western Canada. Prograin, based in Quebec, is the largest private added-value soybean company in Canada.
“It’s the right timing for us,” said Prograin president and CEO Alain Létourneau. “We’ve had a relationship with Quarry Seed for awhile, but it’s the first time we’ve truly introduced our brand in Western Canada. It’s a big deal for us.”
Listen to Alain Létourneau talk about Prograin’s relationship with Quarry Seed:
Ron Gendzelevich, president of Quarry Seed, said the partnership is an opportunity for Quarry to offer its dealers, and ultimately growers, some of the best soybean genetics in Western Canada.
“Prograin works together in collaboration, using the latest technology to really offer something new,” he said. “They’re driven by quality of product.”
As news of further consolidation within the seed and agriculture industries makes headlines, the announcement offered a different narrative from others made in recent weeks, noted Prograin marketing director Alexandre Beaudoin.
“We’re not a big multinational, but we have all the same equipment and capabilities as anyone else,” he said. “But we really have something no one else has, and that’s flexibility. Being smaller and independent definitely has its advantages.”
Alexandre Beaudoin speaks about the benefit of Prograin being an independent seed company:
“Independents have a tendency to grab what’s leading-edge,” Gendzelevich said, addressing an audience of Quarry Seed dealers from around the province. “The best analogy I can give you is that conglomerates are big, but they’re slow. They try to beat you on size, where the independents can quickly seize an opportunity and run with it.”
Gendzelevich has a long history in the industry, beginning with his childhood growing up on the family farm. But rather than take it over, he embarked on his own, earning a degree in plant science at the University of Manitoba and working for a variety of major industry players before founding Quarry Seed, which now has dealers across the Prairies.
“I started from basically zero, and I felt if I was going to get ahead, I had to learn about as many new crops as I could.”
The new crop that opened that door for him was soybean. He’s now credited as one of the people responsible for the soybean explosion on the Prairies, so it’s fitting his company would partner with Prograin, founded by Létourneau’s family in 1980. Besides being the largest private soybean company in the country, Prograin is known for its development of early-maturing soybean varieties adapted to the northern climate.
It now has 85 employees based in four countries, exporting to 15 countries.
“We can easily adapt our portfolio and varieties for the market here,” Létourneau said, noting Prograin is the only independent company doing GMO soybean breeding in Canada. “I’ve known Ron for awhile and we think Quarry is a very good fit for us. We share the same values, we have the same vision.”
Hear Ron Gendzelevich talk about Quarry Seed’s business philosophy:
For 2017, Quarry Seed will distribute four of Prograin’s Roundup Ready soybean varieties through its nearly 100 dealers: CBZ814A1 R2X, Torro R2, Kosmo R2 and Domingo R2X. Gendzelevich said working with Prograin has led, and will lead to more, advanced soybean genetics that will benefit the entire industry.
“We found a variety that could adapt to places in Manitoba that six or seven years ago, everyone said you couldn’t grow beans there. We went back and told Prograin, ‘This variety has something special to it,’” he said.
“So they used molecular markers to check things out, and they found two ultra-early maturity genes that they were able to use to expand the program even further. We know our market and our strategy is to get our dealers invested in this. It’s not just us making decisions, it’s about getting the dealers involved.”