Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes and Assistant Secretary Sam Rikkers visited Circadian Organics outside of Viroqua on Friday, August 19 to explore SeedLinked Co.’s plant breeding platform.
“We were fascinated to learn more about SeedLinked and the many applications it has on a farm like Circadian Organics,” Hughes said. “The platform is already so impressive, but it will only continue to grow and improve as a resource for planters and researchers around the world.”
Hughes and Rikkers visited the farm and participated in a tomato tasting. After sampling three different varieties, they evaluated the sweetness, sourness and other characteristics of the tomatoes, data which has been incorporated into the SeedLinked database and will be available to inform and benefit tomato growers around the world. .
Founded in 2018, SeedLinked offers a new tailored approach to seed selection and crop growth. Location-based user reviews detail seed performance and let others know which variety might be most successful in a specific region. Whether you are a gardener growing produce for yourself or a farmer growing crops on a large scale, SeedLinked’s platform improves results and saves you money.
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“When growers can find the right variety that will have greater disease resistance and is better suited to local growing conditions, they can see a 20% increase in yield and productivity,” said Bjorn Bergman, co -founder and head of marketing at SeedLinked Co. .
The SeedLinked website includes an aggregate marketplace where currently 12 seed companies sell their products in the United States. With user reviews included, the marketplace provides an integrated experience for growers to make informed and convenient seed purchases.
“It shifts the locus of seed information from the hands of seed companies, who tell you what they want in a seed catalog, to the hands of growers, who can share their experiences with each other,” said said Dr. Solveig Hanson, project leader for the Canadian Organic Vegetable Improvement Program (CANOVI) at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
Hanson uses SeedLinked to improve and speed up its program’s variety testing. During the first year of CANOVI’s current five-year trial, Hanson had to manually enter participant data before writing reports. Now, with SeedLinked, growers can access results as soon as trials are complete and have time to select seeds for the following year. Hanson and CANOVI strive to fill market gaps and meet the needs of growers across Canada, and SeedLinked is instrumental in that process.
“It’s an amazing tool for researchers like me trying to aggregate data in these organized ways,” Hanson said. “I also like that it allows anyone, whether professional researcher or not, to do a variety test with members of their community or people elsewhere in the country and collect their own data. on the cultures that are important to him.”
SeedLinked helps seed breeders and researchers at the University of British Columbia, as well as the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Seed Savers Exchange and elsewhere, bring new seed varieties into circulation.
“These groups organize variety trials for different reasons, but many of them don’t have a clear pipeline from variety development to commercialization,” Bergman said. “Our software aims to increase communication at all stages of this pipeline and achieve greater market adoption of new varieties.”
As of 2022, SeedLinked’s network consists of 5,500 accounts worldwide, most of which are in North America. Internationalization efforts involve translating the platform into different languages, including French and German for a grant from the European Union. Groups elsewhere have expressed interest or started using SeedLinked. Specialty vegetables aren’t the limit, however, as SeedLinked has begun to expand into cover crops and sees opportunities with flowers and other perennial crops.
“SeedLinked connects the untapped knowledge of 500 million smallholders around the world who produce 70% of the world’s food supply through crowdsourcing technology,” said CEO Nico Enjalbert. “We dream of an agricultural system that has greater crop diversity, is more connected to help everyone in the seed supply chain, and builds a better world.”
Co-founder Dylan Bruce started Circadian Organics with his wife Skye in 2018. Located just outside Viroqua on the land Bruce grew up on, the farm sells 60 boxes of produce a week to a CSA of around 100 members, primarily in the Madison area, while performing seed production contracts for regional companies. This past growing season, Bruce purchased all of the seeds from his farm through SeedLinked.
“It really helps guide buying decisions and answer the essential annual question of what am I going to grow,” said Bruce, who is also Head of Business Development at SeedLinked. “Many people think that a farmer who has been growing for five years knows what to keep growing, but the reality is that we have changing consumer preferences and a changing climate that is causing new pests and diseases to emerge. .”
Bruce sees SeedLinked as a solution to the outrageously antiquated seed-buying process, which, aside from the emergence of online stores, has remained virtually unchanged since the 19th century. With Circadian Organics, he has seen how beneficial a one-stop seed store can be.
For operations like Circadian Organics, SeedLinked has the added function of streamlining the organic certification process. Bruce uses SeedLinked to track his search for organic seed varieties and, if they are not available, demonstrate to his certifier that he has researched organic options of a given vegetable before settling for a non-organic product.
“I have to show that I looked for an organic alternative, and instead of finding and calling four different seed companies, I can now do it with just one search on the SeedLinked platform,” Bruce said.
While giving Hughes and Rikkers a tour of Circadian Organics, Bruce explained the unique challenges associated with growing specialty crops in the Midwest, where corn and soy often eclipse other vegetables. A seed company recently discontinued Bruce’s favorite carrot variety, as did another with Bruce’s favorite pepper.
“Companies are so focused on Florida and California that they’re losing sight of our region,” Bruce said. “We have very particular production needs, whether it’s humidity that causes disease or winter temperatures that shorten production seasons.”
SeedLinked is one of many companies that have benefited from WEDC’s Qualified New Business Venture (QNBV) program. The QNBV program aims to encourage equity investments in technology companies in the State of Wisconsin. By providing eligible angel investors and venture capital funds with a Wisconsin income tax credit equal to 25% of the value of their investment, the program helps technology startups develop products, enter markets and to create high-quality jobs as they emerge in their industries.
“It was super vital for SeedLinked to be a part of it,” Bergman said. “We were able to hire a few more people and keep more developers hired for a longer period of time. It just helped us develop more software and fully develop the first iteration of our market.”