The Seed Succeeds

Interview with Matthias Kühlmann, Board Member of farmsaat AG

formsaat- New varieties are developed in Bavarian Osterhofen
New varieties are developed in Bavarian Osterhofen

Corn as far as the eye can see. About 2.5 million hectares of corn are currently cultivated in Germany. And for good reason. Corn is versatile, delivers above-average yields and plenty of energy, and comparatively requires less plant protection. farmsaat AG from Everswinkel knows the advantages of corn. The company breeds seed and distributes it directly to farmers. A unique concept.

Since its establishment in 2007, farmsaat has stood for the idea of distributing seeds directly to farmers, without, for example, involving cooperatives in between. With this concept, farmsaat has been successfully distinguishing itself from the competition from the very beginning.

"We have our own breeds and are one of two corn breeders in Germany," says board member Matthias Kühlmann. "Meanwhile, in addition to the original and core product of corn, we also offer soybeans." Since the production of the seeds requires a lot of space and warmer temperatures, farmsaat collaborates with external service providers domestically and in European countries. Production takes place in Germany, France, Austria, or in Ukraine.

On the Direct Path

Matthias Kühlmann, Executive Board Member of farmsaat AG
Matthias Kühlmann, Executive Board Member of farmsaat AG

Between 50 and 60 employees work for the company, with a turnover of around 35 million EUR. The growth driver is direct sales – true to the motto 'by farmers for farmers'. "We work with farm partners, local representatives, all of whom have experience in agriculture and can therefore provide technically competent advice," explains Matthias Kühlmann. "In Europe, this is about 500 sales representatives. The core market is in Germany, but we are also active in neighboring countries such as the Benelux states, Poland, and France. Smaller markets include Austria, Denmark, Switzerland, and Slovakia."

Own breeding, own quality

Corn, originally from Mexico, is used for biogas production, as silage corn for cows and cattle, as grain corn for poultry and pigs, and to a lesser extent for the production of food. "90% of the corn goes into feed production," says Matthias Kühlmann. "We have our own product development, which brings many advantages. Our seed is very well adapted to the local climate, tolerant of diseases, and copes well with drought periods. The breeding takes place in the open air, which is also a unique selling point."

In the changing times

farmsaat offers the right seed for different needs – seed from very early to very late maturity periods and for all uses. Bestseller of the approximately 20 varieties of corn range is FARMORITZ, a variety that convinces with above-average stem health, stability, and suitability for various soils. With soy, farmsaat focuses on a second, increasingly important pillar and now offers three different varieties. Soy is processed for milk and meat substitute products, a market with growth potential.

A concept that works

In addition to the products, farmsaat sees its sales concept as an important success factor. "Through direct sales to over 10,000 farmers and the associated close cooperation, we directly reflect what we do well and what is less good," says Matthias Kühlmann. "We take this feedback seriously and let it flow into development."

Challenges and opportunities

farmsaat develops with the demands of customers and the market. The crises of recent years have led to wide-reaching price increases. "In just one year, prices have risen by up to 25%," says Matthias Kühlmann. "The market has thus become even more competitive. With 10 to 20 players, mostly large corporations from the USA or France, the market is very concentrated. As a medium-sized company, we must compete with these large corporations."

In order to prevail in the market under difficult conditions, farmsaat constantly works on new products that meet the needs of farmers, but also of end customers. "We need to anticipate trends and see what consequences climate change has," says Matthias Kühlmann. "What will happen in 20 years? Meat consumption will probably continue to decline, which means that less silage corn will be needed. Our task, therefore, is to look for alternatives and to be open to other cultures, to a vegetarian diet. Already we are convinced that legumes will gain in importance. Their great advantage is that they can bind nitrogen in the soil and therefore require less fertilization."

The topic of sustainability will play an even more important role in the future but has long been an important issue for farmsaat "out of conviction," as Matthias Kühlmann emphasizes. "For example, we rely on short transport routes, which we can guarantee through our roots in Germany. A good carbon footprint is becoming increasingly important for collaboration with the food retail sector. We have to respond to that." farmsaat sees the challenges of the market – and accepts them. "Agriculture will change," believes Matthias Kühlmann. "Germany is well suited for this with its climate. It will be important to adapt, but there are many opportunities. That's why we are looking positively into the future in the long term."