Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Big Three (auto or seed?)

I heard a great question from the audience at this week's departmental seminar (paraphrasing):
Professor:
I can imagine how the automotive industry can support several massive companies since everyone kinda wants different things in their car - but how do the massive companies in the seed industry differentiate themselves when they're all selling pretty much identical versions of the same commodity?

Industry scientist:
There are a couple of reasons - some are kind of random like brand loyalty, but the best large scale farmers buy seed from multiple companies to hedge their bets. They know that (since companies each work from their own germplasm library) any two varieties from one company will be more similar than any two from different companies. So they may, say, buy their early maturing variety from Company 1 and their late maturing variety from Company 2, and then buy their third variety from Company 3 because they happened to offer them a good deal.
Biodiversity is good practice at all scales!

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