The seed industry in Australia acts as an essential link in the development of crops that are vital for the country’s food security and agricultural productivity. Globally, the seed treatment market is the fastest-growing segment of the crop protection market and is expected to achieve a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.6% between 2014 and 20201.
However, a majority of the research and development in seed treatments is undertaken by the private sector and usually major multinational companies. This means intellectual property is held very tightly and publicly available data is hard to come by. As a result, advice, recipes and formulations are almost non-existent to anyone outside these large companies.
Despite these obstacles, Baker Seed Co, a wholly owned and operated Australian family seed business, is developing innovative products by embracing new technology.
“We strive to have the best physical, genetic purity that we can, but we also embrace what we can do to the seed post-harvest that will improve its germination and vigour. We invest in the latest seed coating technology and have purchased a new machine to help us provide this. We also recently sent three of our staff to the International Seed Academy in Thailand to learn about new technologies and best practice,” says Baker Seed Co General Manger, Ashley Fraser.
Mr Fraser is a 2012 Nuffield Farming Scholar, which is awarded to 20 individuals every year to support overseas travel and study. The Nuffield Farming Scholar provides individuals with the opportunity to research a topic they believe will add value to the Australian agricultural industry. Mr Fraser studied how seed coating both protects and enhances crop growth, looking into seed enhancement products from around the world. This knowledge helped Baker Seed Co in developing their own prototype gas-fired seed coating technology. The non-flamed, LPG-fired machine uses infrared heat to treat seed and bacteria to much higher temperatures without compromising germination in preliminary testing.
Mr Fraser says the company’s next step is to look at incorporating multi-spectrum imaging systems into their operations to help pick up irregularities and residuals within seeds. These systems are able to look into the seed to quickly and easily determine the surface colour, texture, shape, size and any irregularities in the seed. The information collected is then used to undertake an assessment of uniform and non-homogeneous samples without the need for sample preparation. It also leaves the sample intact.
While Mr Fraser says Australian farmers are generally a sceptical bunch, a growing number are embracing new technologies that have been proven to work.
“At Baker Seed Co we don’t give you a full polished sales pitch, we tell you the truth whether it’s good or bad, so our customers know these innovations are providing value. Australian farmers are pretty savvy so they won’t embrace something without enough science to prove what it does, but we’ve been able to show them the lengths we’re going to, to improve the establishment in the paddock,” says Mr Fraser.
“We’ve also got all our staff on board in terms of embracing new technologies which is really important. You’ve got to bring your staff along the journey as you transition to using new technologies and practices because they’re going to be the ones explaining the technology to our customers.”
Baker Seed Co
1Grand View Research 2017, Seed Treatment Market Size, Share & Trends, Analysis Report by Type (Insecticides, Fungicides, Nonchemical), By Crop Type (Maize, Soybean, Wheat, Canola, Cotton) By Region, and Segment Forecast, 2012-2020, < https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/seed-treatment-market>.