FBN buys canola breeders

Farmers Business Network says it decided it buy its own canola seed companies after unsuccessfully attempting to reach supply agreements with established businesses.  |  File photo

There’s a new player in the canola game.

Farmers Business Network has made its first foray into the Canadian canola seed business by acquiring two small breeding companies.

The online crop input retailer and farm data provider has purchased Winnipeg research and development firm Haplotech, as well as the Canadian canola breeding program of Cibus.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the acquisitions,” said Breen Neeser, Canadian country manager for FBN.

“It’s very strategic for us and something we’ve been looking at for a long time.”

Neeser said FBN’s farmer members have been asking the company to provide them with canola seed but it has had a difficult time securing supply.

“We have talked to companies about acquiring or distributing seed on their behalf and it hasn’t been easy,” he said.

Earlier this year, FBN filed a complaint with the Competition Bureau alleging that a number of established manufacturers and wholesalers of crop inputs refused to supply the e-commerce company with product.

That complaint is still under investigation, according to the bureau.

The California firm has decided to take matters into its own hands by acquiring two Canadian canola-breeding programs.

Haplotech is a Winnipeg firm that provides breeding services and runs trials for other companies. It owns research plots in Western Canada and in Chile.

“For too long canola farmers have been subject to industry consolidation, leaving them with fewer price choices,” Haplotech president Rale Gjuric said in a news release.

“We’re excited to join FBN Canada and provide a path to commercialize canola seed and bring Canadian farmers true market competition for their business.”

Haplotech also runs a small breeding program with a collection of proprietary canola germplasm.

“It has a lot of potential but it has never been fully developed,” said Dan Dyer, FBN’s head of seed and research and development.

Cibus made news in recent years by commercializing a new herbicide tolerant canola that has been deemed by United States regulators as a non-GMO product.

The company’s SU Canola is tolerant to sulfonylurea herbicide. The crop was developed using Cibus’s patented gene-editing technology.

FBN acquired Cibus’s Canadian breeding program and germplasm and has licensed the firm’s herbicide tolerant and pod-shattering traits. The two companies intend to work as partners.

Dyer said it will likely be two to three years before FBN has a canola offering for western Canadian farmers.

He has to take stock of what is in the research pipeline of both companies before determining what is the most likely candidate for FBN’s first offering.

FBN runs a corn-breeding program in the U.S. and with the acquisition of Haplotech and Cibus it can also begin corn trials in the southern Canadian Prairies.

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