AgReliant Increasing its Corporate, Research 'Acreage’

An Indiana company that aims to give farmers bumper crops is experiencing robust growth itself. AgReliant Genetics is breaking ground on a more than $6 million expansion at its corporate headquarters in Westfield, while also growing its research footprint. The seed company is building a state-of-the-art greenhouse at one of its Indiana research stations, where corn will be grown and studied even during harsh winter months. That ability to keep “the pedal to the metal” year-round is just one demand in the increasingly competitive seed production industry.

AgReliant says the expansion will help keep pace with its demand as the third largest seed company in the U.S. Founded in 2000 by parent companies Groupe Limagrain in France and Germany-based KWS—the fourth and fifth largest seed companies in the world—the company has roots in fertile soil. AgReliant says it’s experienced continuous growth since its inception, increasing its corn volume by about 300 percent.

AgReliant leaders say the company has simply outgrown its corporate headquarters; currently housing about 50 employees, the expansion will add space for the 50 new positions that are expected in the coming years.

“It’s a competitive industry, and the market’s always changing,” says AgReliant Vice President of Research Dr. Tom Koch. “We need to have the top genetics and the most rapid response to whatever the customer needs.” (LISTEN Koch1) 15137 TEMPLATE

The need for speed is one factor that led the company to enhance its research capabilities by adding a high-tech greenhouse. With 13 research stations throughout the Corn Belt, including two in Indiana, the company says it’s ranked among the top five research programs in North America.

Likening it to the company’s “think tank,” AgReliant chose its Lebanon research facility to be home to the first greenhouse in Indiana. Plans call for two more greenhouses at the same location, where research can be coordinated with the company’s molecular marker lab and biotech efforts.

“Greenhouses are used mainly to allow us to grow corn year-round in Indiana. We have pretty harsh winters, so you could only get one growing season in Indiana each year if we didn’t utilize a greenhouse,” says Koch. “A greenhouse allows us to get three generations—maybe even four—per year in Indiana. Basically, we can cycle our corn a lot faster to get technology to our customers more quickly.”

The state-of-the-art greenhouse will allow researchers to control every detail of the growing environment, including moisture, lighting and air flow. While some of AgReliant’s products are ultimately tested in farmers’ fields, Koch says greenhouses help deliver consistency for testing and breeding.

That predictability is appealing, as record levels of rain are causing hiccups in AgReliant’s test fields throughout the Midwest.

“[Weather] has a direct impact on our research. Too much of a good thing is seldom a good thing, and rain is no exception,” says Koch. “We want to have very uniform test plots; the more uniform the fields, the better our comparisons can be. If you have water standing on a field for three weeks, that’s not going to be very strong research data. Our scientists and statisticians will have to look through the plots to see which ones have high enough data quality that we can actually use it.” (LISTEN Koch2) 15138

The last four years alone have run the gamut from dry, to soggy, to bumper crop fields. The company plans to have its latest tool, called Advantage Acre, in customers’ hands later this year. AgReliant President and Chief Executive Officer Craig Newman says it’s just one more example of bringing the latest technology to farmers to help them maximize their yields, even in less than ideal conditions. (LISTEN Newman1) 15139

Regardless of Mother Nature, company leaders believe the formula remains the same since the day AgReliant was founded: take advantage of innovations in genetics, breeding and precision farming to increase farmers’ productivity. (LISTEN Newman2) 15140

“We’ve been consistently successful over all those years,” says Newman. “We’ve increased our dollar sales about six-and-a-half times. Just doing the right thing over and over and satisfying the customer is the bottom line.”