Bioseed, the hybrid seeds business of DCM Shriram, plans to launch four to five new hybrid seeds every year with focus on vegetable hybrids, while strengthening corn and rice, the main drivers.
Eggplant, tomato, bitter gourd and watermelon are some of the products in the pipeline. The company will invest more on bioinformatics and molecular breeding capabilities as it diversifies into newer crops.
At present, it is strong in corn, cotton, hybrid rice and select vegetables with its R&D lab in Hyderabad driving its developments, says Paresh Verma, Executive Director & Chief Executive, Bioseed South East Asia, and Research Director BRI.
With the changing consumption patterns the share of vegetables is growing. Hybrid technology helps in making tailor-made changes in the produce and improve farmer incomes, he told BusinessLine.
The DCM Shriram group set up the biotech lab at the ICRISAT about 12 years ago. Today, it is among the best, fully-equipped and is being constantly upgraded. It has 20-25 researchers. It provides expertise across R&D, field and lab testing, data analytics, seed production, and farm extension, among others. Overall, the company has about 75 scientists, including 25 breeders and 30-35 agronomists.
DCM Shriram took over Bioseed in 2002 and since then they have expanded operations to many countries. It strengthened its operations in the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand recently.
To accelerate its growth, Shriram Bioseed and KeyGene entered into a multi-year strategic co-development research program for development of improved rice hybrids last year.
According to the agreement, KeyGene’s platforms will be exploited to boost important traits like higher yields, tolerance to abiotic stresses and better grain quality in Bioseed’s elite rice germplasm.
The partners agreed to make joint investments and push the growth of hybrid rice markets in India and South East Asian markets.
At the Hyderabad laboratory, scientists use biotechnology to build resistance traits into crops by marrying appropriate strains of seeds. These experiments undergo vigorous testing, first in sterile conditions in laboratories, and then in breeding stations that simulate farming conditions, Paresh explained.
On an average, the gestation period of each Bioseed project is seven to 10 years, from experiments in the laboratory to observation in the fields to commercialisation.
The company has breeding stations in Bengaluru, Aurangabad, Alwar, Faizabad and Hissar. The main crops include cotton, rice, wheat, paddy, mustard, tomato, and chilli.
A strong distribution network also enables Bioseed to provide quality seeds to farmers across South and South East Asia. It uses biotechnology-based solutions for the benefit of countries with similar climatic and soil conditions, he added
“Bioseed is registering stable growth in all verticals in India except cotton seed business, which continues to suffer because of the government’s policy towards introduction of new technologies and price controls. Internationally, the Philippines is registering consistent growth,” according to its latest quarterly performance.