Business Profile: Seed Consultants is loyal to customers, region

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WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE, Ohio — Seed Consultants started with zero sales in 1990, and expanded to more than $35 million in gross sales in 2009.

Based in Washington Court House, Ohio, Seed Consultants, Inc. is currently the largest independent seed company in Ohio, and third largest of all seed companies doing business in Ohio.

The company is ranked among the top five independents nationally and second east of the Mississippi River.

Offerings

The company offers hybrid seed corn, conventional to quad stacks; soybeans, conventional to Roundup Ready; seed wheat; premium alfalfas (Seed Consultants, Inc. is the exclusive distributor of America’s alfalfas for Ohio); small seeds; seed treatments; inoculations; and wholesale herbicides.

With 56 corn locations, 36 soybean locations and 11 wheat locations, owners Dan Fox and Chris Jeffries said Seed Consultants has the largest replicated testing program of all companies in the eastern Corn Belt, selecting genetics for the eastern Corn Belt’s unique growing conditions and soil types.

Expansion

In 2000, the company built a state-of-the-art conditioning facility at Washington Court House, with a capacity of 1,000,000 units of soybeans and wheat.

In 2001, the company purchased the retail seed sales of Warner Seeds of Bradford, Ohio, and entered into a long-term agreement with Warner Seeds for irrigated production of hybrid seed corn.

The corn production arm, Warner Seeds and Dull Homestead, recently spent more than $3.5 million in new construction and renovation of their seed corn plants.

In 2007-2008, Seed Consultants’ proprietary corn breeding program continues to show promise with 175 new lines showing improvement, both phenotypically and genotypically. The company is spec producing three proprietary lines for limited release in 2010.

Despite a tough economy, Seed Consultants continues to grow market share. Corn sales are expected to increase in excess of 10 percent while soybean sales should exceed a 20 percent increase.

“Most everyone in the industry were expecting level to lower corn sales, but we have a great customer base that likes our products,” said Chris Jeffries, president. “So we are pleasantly surprised by our 2009 sales.”

Accomplishments

Seed Consultants continues to build genetic and trait relationships with the multi-nationals, allowing the company to continue to be competitive, especially since they use a regionalized selection process.

“Our eastern testing program allows us to glean the best lines from the genetic suppliers for our specific environments,” Jeffries said. “The nationals cannot release regional lines, but Seed Consultants thrives on this fact.”

Jeffries said that for his company, customers and a passion for the seed business are what matters most.

“We care about our clients,” he said. “This not lip service, and our actions back up this fact. We have been able to surround ourselves with great customers.”

Even though Jeffries and Fox could sell the company for quite a profit, their commitment to customers won’t allow it.

“It has never been about the money,” Jeffries said. “We are committed not to sell!”

Regional company

He said that many growers are not aware that the regional company they currently buy from is owned by a multinational and is no longer independently controlled.

“Seed Consultants, Inc. is routinely targeted by the multinationals, through special pricing programs, in hopes of eliminating our influence in many areas,” Jeffries said.

“One multinational even brought a manager from Argentina in last fall and actually threatened to target our company since we were using genetics from a competitor.”

Jeffries said some customers actually begin to buy from Seed Consultants in order to work out a better deal with another supplier.

“This is great for us since our retention rate continues to be very good and we have been able to build a strong relationship with many of these customers,” he said.

Looking to the future, Seed Consultants plans to double its size within the next five to seven years by following the principles that have allowed it to grow in the first place.

Jeffries said the industry is changing every year with continued consolidation.

“Corporate MBA’s are making decisions good for their companies and their accountants with little concern for their customers,” he said.

“Corporate appears to be all about their profits. Seed Consultants, Inc. understands it must make a profit, but we also understand the partnership with our growers by being a regional family owned business.

Details

Seed Consultants may be reached at P.O. Box 370, Washington Court House, OH 43160. You can also call 800-708-2676 or e-mail seedconsultants@seedconsultants.com.

Hours of operation are normally 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but in-season hours expand to 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. For more information, visit www.seedconsultants.com.

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