By Top Crop Manager
Variety must still pass the premium test.
When talking about value added ventures, it is often useful to be reminded
of the somewhat lengthy process that a premium market undergoes on the road
to success. A wheat variety like FT Wonder is a perfect example of that journey.
In September 2006, Dan Brown of Inwood Seed and Grain in Inwood, Ontario, hosted
a gathering of dealers and processors. Some came from nearby Michigan while
others travelled from parts of eastern Ontario and Quebec. One of the presentations
introduced a new premium program for FT Wonder, a Hyland Seeds variety. Reportedly,
the low protein wheat was favoured by a Quebec miller with a specialty bakery
as its final destination. In 2005 the miller had used 400 tonnes of FT Wonder;
in 2006, that number jumped to 10,000, with 20,000 tonnes the expected market
for 2007. Brown also aligned this project with the Healthy Grains program in
Quebec, a joint venture between growers in the province and the Quebec Ministry
of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPAQ).
The growing season of 2007 has brought some uncertainty for the FT Wonder program,
but no lesser a degree of enthusiasm for Brown or Hyland Seeds. Despite spotty
participation in southern Ontario, both parties agree this is the best time
to begin the process of attracting growers to this premium opportunity.
Brown is especially optimistic of FT Wonder's promotion as both fusarium tolerant
(hence the 'FT' designation) and chemical free. He also likes its IP design
and well-structured directives. "I'm very comfortable with the Healthy
Grain program because they're using certified seed and there are three field
inspections involved in it," he explains.
He notes the 'chemical free' label provides a valued consumer appeal without
some of the confusion he believes comes with organics, particularly the use
of bin-run seed. "Being in the IP business in other grains, I know the
route, and being the president of the Ontario Seed Growers' Association, I like
that you have to buy certified seed."
Always looking for new opportunities
As of June 2007, negotiations with the miller are still in the works, yet Brown
remains upbeat about the market potential for FT Wonder. There is also an opportunity
for soft red wheat from Ontario which also has garnered the interest of Quebec's
Healthy Grains program. "The important thing with this program is that
it's going to have to be competitive with other programs that use fertilizers
and fungicides," says Brown, referring to FT Wonder. "It's going to
have to be CBoT price plus a premium."
On the Hyland Seeds side, there is nothing but praise for Brown's initiative
and the vision to help find new market opportunities. "Basically, I agreed
to sell Dan untreated seed because I just love to see any opportunity for an
entrepreneur to get more than a commodity price for anything," says John
Cowan, general manager of Hyland Seeds in Blenheim, Ontario.
On its own, FT Wonder is now into its third year of commercial availability,
with a conventionally bred, non-GMO tolerance that actually borders on resistance.
However, Cowan is reluctant to call it resistant, even though he could, scientifically.
"It is the first variety that we could have called fusarium resistant,
according to the scientific data, and the way the word resistant is applied,"
says Cowan. "But we chose not to because as soon as you say that word,
Mother Nature will find a way to come back on you."