One Piece of Seed May Change the World

Solynta

1. No Poverty 2. Zero Hunger 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth 13. Climate Action

Overview

The innovation company Solynta is based in Wageningen, Netherlands. It has developed a unique technology for potato hybrid breeding. The impact of this technology has already changed farmers income, improved their living and transformed the environment.

Authors

Lev Voloznev

Lev Voloznev

Jason Chen

Jason Chen

School

TIAS School for Business and Society

TIAS School for Business and Society

Professor

Mirjam Minderman

Mirjam Minderman

Innovation

In 2009, a group of enthusiastic individuals proved that a potato hybrid breeding technology allows farmers to grow the same amount of potatoes based on 25 grams of ‘true seeds’ instead of 2500 kilos of last year's potato tubers. They set up a new business for this development, which they had been working on for 15 years. After several times of an empiric trial and error process, hybrid breeding can keep true seeds free from diseases and grow potatoes much faster. It is possible to produce enormous quantities by using new improved hybrid seeds, thus meeting the urgent and increasing demand for food. Moreover, the potato seeds are easy to transport compared to heavy potato tubers.

One Piece of Seed May Change the World

Inspiration

The initial trigger was a purely economic one. But, at the same time, creating value for society makes a huge impact in developing countries. Firstly, with disease resistance, potato seeds contribute to future wealth and well-being for society by eliminating toxic pesticides, not only resulting in fewer expenses on pesticides but also in benefits for the planet. Secondly, growing potatoes needs much less water than other crops such as rice, wheat and corn. As we know freshwater is going to be a huge problem in the foreseeable future, hence the potato seeds can relieve the pressure of water scarcity. Thirdly, the same amount of water can grow more potatoes to feed people which could solve malnutrition problems.

Overall impact

During the time the company grows from small to 60 people, they have a close collaboration with over 25 universities and are present in many countries around the world. Solynta technology has been recognized with several awards, including the Food Valley Award, Rabobank Innovation Prize, and ‘Dutch National Icon’. Although people have been breeding new varieties of potato for more than a hundred years, the development of hybrid potato seeds was something thought to be impossible. However, this had the potential to unlock billions of dollars in farmgate value and impact the environment significantly.

Business benefit

As farmers can use ‘true seeds’ to grow potatoes rather than the ‘seed-tubers,’ which are usually used to plant potatoes, there are several benefits in different aspects. Hein Kruyt mentioned: “just 25 grams of true-seeds can replace 2500 kilos of heavy seed-tubers”. Transportation can save lots of fuel and energy and companies can reduce their costs on it tremendously. Compared to seed-tubers, true seeds are not easily perishable, contaminated and degenerated. Farmers can increase their productivity by using true seeds. According to their research, Solynta can increase yields by more than 30% in developed countries and they can more than double the yield in the developing countries.

The true seed is easy to transport, easy to store, pristine and non-perishable. However, Solynta later found that the advantages are more than that. Farmers can use much less pesticide to plant their potatoes because true seed maximizes the resistances against pests and diseases. “Normally," Hein Kruyt pointed out, “every farmer can save at least 200 euros on pesticide costs. In their business model, farmers keep 80% of the costs they save from pesticide and they take 20% of it”. Farmers and Solynta all share the benefit from not using the pesticide and it is a win-win situation to each other. Although Solynta has positive margins, they still invest in the pipeline and global supply chain. In 2021, they will officially launch their first product and cooperate with their strategic alliance to promote the potato seeds to the world. More people will benefit from Solynta and Solynta also expects to start earning a net profit at that time.

Social and environmental benefit

In some developing countries, people do not have sufficient food and suffer from hunger. Although they have lands to grow plants, the yields are quite low due to severe climate, large numbers of pests and lack of affordable pesticide. The potato seeds from Solynta has more resistance to diseases and pests and needs less water than seed-tubers do. This can help farmers handle problems of water shortage and problems of having not enough money to purchase fertilizer and pesticide. “There is an example from Congo. By overcoming the difficulties farmers used to have, the productivity can increase from 8,000 kilos to 30,000 kilos per hector”, Hein Kruyt stated, “which is about three times than original yields. So, the huge increase in food can reduce hunger for this country”.

Having more yields of potatoes, farmers can earn more income and improve living standard for their families. They can have enough food, clean water, and children can continue going to school as their study would not be interrupted due to lack of money. In the future, some of them may have opportunities to take a degree in university and have a good chance to change their lives. Later, these students could go back to contribute themselves to their hometowns or get a better job than they would have obtained otherwise.

Interview

Hein Kruyt, CEO

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Solynta

Solynta

Wageningen, Gelderland, NL

Business Website: https://solynta.com/

Year Founded: 2009

Number of Employees: 51 to 200

Solynta is a breeding and biotechnology company that develops and applies new breeding technologies to convert potatoes into a hybrid crop.