From left, Dan Basse, John Latham, Myron Stine, John Wyffels, and Scott Beck during the "Thriving Amongst the Giants" panel. (Chris Lusvardi photos)

Chicago, IL (December 10, 2019) – Four seed company executives talked about the “Thriving Amongst the Giants” Tuesday during the American Seed Trade Association’s (ASTA) CSS & Seed Expo 2019 in Chicago, IL.

The panelists included John Latham, president of Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, Alexander, IA; Scott Beck, president of Beck’s Hybrids, Atlanta, IN; Myron Stine, president of Stine Seed Company, Adel, IA; and John Wyffels, president of Wyffels Hybrids, Geneseo, IL.

The panel focused on discussing the needs of seed businesses who are employing key business strategies to ensure success in an environment of transition and consolidation. It was a follow-up to a “Majors After The Mergers” session last year, which featured executives from Corteva Agriscience, Bayer, BASF, and Syngenta.

John Latham

Latham says for his company, it all starts with the people. He says it thrives because of the great team that continues to build relationships with customers and within the industry.

“We have an attitude to overcome any obstacle that is put in front of us,” Latham says.

Latham explains business success also involves the company’s culture, marketing, location, genetic/trait providers, leadership, and passion for the industry.

Scott Beck

Beck says his company has a deep family history rooted in agriculture. They are farmers at heart, Beck says, which drives them in what they do each day.

He points out seed is not always valued appropriately. Beck says they will continue to help farmers find the total value of what is delivered to them.

Operating independently allows the company to make strategic decisions without feeling the need to meet quarterly balance sheet goals, Beck says.

Myron Stine

Stine says being a privately held family-owned company allows it to be more agile. Quick decisions can be made in regards to research or marketing programs, he says.

“I don’t think people understand how important that is,” Stine says. “A family-based privately held seed company has a spot in the seed industry today.”

John Wyffels

Wyffels says operating the business is not always easy as many sacrifices have to be made, but Wyffels Hybrids has doubled in size in the past five years.

“I don’t see consolidation limiting our opportunity for growth,” Wyffels says. “We embrace innovation and have been willing to change.”

Dan Basse with John Latham and Myron Stine.

In addition to the panel, Dan Basse of AgResource provided an update about the global agricultural market. Basse has spoken to the ASTA group each year since 2012.

He discussed the economic outlook for the upcoming year and beyond. Basse is not as worried about being able to feed 9 billion people by 2050 as others.

“Feeding 9 billion people is not going to be the problem,” Basse says. “The real challenge is in the next 10 years.”

The U.S. might not be the top economy in 10 years, falling behind China and India, Basse says.

“Never in our lifetimes has the U.S. not been the biggest economy in the world,” Basse says.

Farmers are caught in the cross-hairs of trade disputes that are happening, he adds.

Brett Sciotto

Brett Sciotto of Aimpoint Research says farmers face a tough environment that adds up to uncertainty, which can be crippling. But, he adds, they can turn those concerns into opportunity.

Disruption to the industry needs to come from within, otherwise Sciotto says others will influence the changes.

“It’s better that we do it than wait for somebody else to do it,” Sciotto says.

Dr Dieter K Mulitze of Agronomix Software kicks off the Ag Tech Innovations Showcase at CSS & Seed Expo with information presented in 10-minutes TED Talk-style format. (John Reidy photo)

Earlier in the General Session, ASTA President and CEO Andy LaVigne recognized Administrative Services Director Barbara Surian, who is retiring at the end of the month after 18 years working for ASTA. The winner of this year’s "Better Seed, Better Life" student video content was also announced.

The Seed Expo opened Tuesday afternoon, featuring the first-ever Ag Tech Innovations Showcase. Representatives from nine companies were given the opportunity to make 10 minute presentations offered in TED-talk style.

The companies included Agronomix Software, Arable, Inc., FarmMarket ID, Granular, Power Pollen, Progeny Drone, QualySense, Sound Agriculture, and SlantRange.

For updates from the Seed Expo, follow Seed Today on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

CSS & Seed Expo 2019 continues Wednesday with sessions about Next Generation Wheat Markets and Hemp Seed Opportunities & Challenges, among others. The Seed Expo Educational Tour 1 from 10-11:30 a.m. is scheduled to feature presentations from BASF, Bayer, Corteva Agriscience, Eurofins BioDiagnostics, SGS, and Syngenta.

See ASTA’s webpage for more information and full schedule details.

Written by Chris Lusvardi, Seed Today editor

Other Seed Today articles from throughout the week include:

Equipment Innovations Tour Provides Look At Latest Technology During ASTA's CSS & Seed Expo 2019 12/19

Seed Treatment Educational Tour Returns As Part Of ASTA's CSS & Seed Expo 2019 12/18

ASTA Debuts Ag Tech Innovations Showcase During CSS & Seed Expo 2019 12/17

New Breeding Technologies Discussed As ASTA's CSS & Seed Expo 2019 Wraps Up 12/12

Hemp Seed Opportunities and Challenges Discussed During CSS & Seed Expo 2019 12/11

ASTA Announces Winner of Third Annual “Better Seed, Better Life” Student Video Contest 12/10

ASTA's CSS & Seed Expo 2019 Starts With Presentations Including "Field Applications in Digital Agriculture" 12/09