Modern intensive farming techniques that rely heavily on monocultures often leave crops vulnerable to attacks from pests, fungi and viruses. The answer from the industry is to breed crop varieties with an in-built resistance.
“In 2016 we bought a minority stake in an Israeli company, Seeds Technologies, specializing in research and development into hybrid varieties of vegetables such as tomatoes,” says Managing Director Bernard Nabarro. “Hybrid varieties demonstrate a host of advantages over pure-bred plants, including greater resistance to a wider variety of diseases.”
GSN Semences has already had success with hybrid seeds. Its Lambada F1 cucumber has been bred for cultivation under glass and also shows great potential as a variety that can be grown successfully in adverse conditions.
“We have had great success with our new range of F1 cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet peppers, watermelons, melons and squash,” says Mr. Nabarro. “Following years of investment and successful tests, we are expecting strong sales in our markets in the Middle East and North Africa.”
GSN Semences sells 4,500 t of seeds each year. The company offers its customers a particularly wide range that covers 70 different species and more than 500 varieties. Although some stock is sold in bulk for packaging by the customer, the majority is sold prepackaged in various forms.
“We do not sell direct to farmers but through importers and wholesalers in 90 countries worldwide,” says Mr. Nabarro. “Exports account for 90% of sales.”
Production of varieties suitable for cultivation in France takes place in the company’s own factories. GSN Semences prides itself on the French origin of its seeds and grows seeds for crops such as carrots, parsley and beetroot in France on a total area of 2,000 ha of which 1,200 ha is devoted to pea cultivation alone.
One of the most important markets for its seeds is North Africa. Its favourable climate means that a lot of the summer vegetables and fruit enjoyed in Northern Europe during the winter months are grown there and exported.
“There is also growing local demand as the population expands at a rapid pace,” says Mr. Nabarro. “Despite strong competition in this sector, we enjoy a strong reputation for quality and benefit from the fact that growers tend to stick with products that they know work rather than risking their harvest on an experiment that may not work.”