Betaseed Inc.

Superior seeds- sugar beet research and development based in Minnesota
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Elizabeth Towne

Through industry-leading research and development, Betaseed Inc. is developing high-performing, multiple-disease-tolerant sugar beet seed varieties. Over the course of 45 years, the Minnesota-based company has become the foremost sugar beet seed brand for growers across North America. Betaseed’s hybrids have gained a reputation as the industry standard for disease tolerance and high-yield potential.

Betaseed was established in 1970 as a joint venture between KWS SAAT and Northrup King with the goal in mind to develop, produce and market varieties of sugar beet seed to producers in the U.S. “In 1989, KWS purchased the company in its entirety from Northrup King and we have been solely owned by KWS, our German parent company, ever since,” explains John Enright, president of Betaseed.

Delivery value to producers

Enright, who has been with Betaseed for the last 19 years, says the company’s relationship with KWS supplies the resources needed to devote a huge portion of the business to cutting-edge research and development (R&D). “We truly feel that what sets us apart from competitors is our strong commitment to R&D – through traditional classic breeding techniques and constantly improving materials, strong disease nursery programs throughout North America and bringing in additional disease resistances based on market needs,” explains Enright.

Betaseed is so focused on R&D that out of 140 full-time employees, one-third of the staff is dedicated to this side of the business. “Our target market is really sugar beet producers but we also work with processors and sugar companies to capture their input on where they see future demands and disease pressures in their individual markets,” says Enright. “This feedback steers the direction of product development for Betaseed.”

The Betaseed performance portfolio is centered on leading research, knowledge and value. The company strives to provide a portfolio of seed varieties, trait technology and seed treatments that give growers the tools they need to achieve a successful crop.

Forward thinking in four locations

Betaseed is well-positioned to deliver this value throughout North America, with four locations, including three research-dedicated facilities. At its Eastern Research Station in Shakopee, Minnesota, Betaseed has 70 acres of irrigated land, a machine shop, seed-processing equipment, research greenhouses and equipment storage facilities. The Shakopee location manages research projects on 140 acres of irrigated land in nearby Cannon Falls, Minnesota.

Established in 1980, Betaseed’s Shakopee site manages the Cercospora-disease-tolerance selection nursery, as well as an Aphanomyces-tolerance nursery. These nurseries support sugar cooperatives and official testing agencies.

In 2011, a new 8,000-square-foot greenhouse was constructed for the sole purpose of facilitating the further crossing, screening, and seed increase of lines containing experimental traits developed with the use of biotechnology. Several projects are underway at this site, including enhanced protection from Rhizomania, increased yield and water stress tolerance.

“We also have a research facility in Moorhead, Minnesota,” adds Enright. “This site conducts yield trials for Minnesota, North Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska, and eastern Montana with 80 acres of land. Moorhead also manages extensive disease nursery plots that screen sugar beet varieties for tolerance to Fusarium.”

In Kimberly, Idaho, Betaseed runs a research station with 170 acres of irrigated farm land, including a greenhouse building, a shop for seed milling and an insectary. Team members conduct plant breeding, pest and disease-tolerance evaluations and replicated yield trials that focus on hybrid development.

Betaseed Inc.

Room for more processing

Betaseed’s main production facility is located in Tangent, Oregon, where the company started processing seed in 1971 with one building allocated to seed processing and another to warehousing. Over the last 45 years, the facility has been upgraded and expanded to more than seven buildings complete with computerized manufacturing.

In an effort to continue to deliver the most value to producers, Betaseed is expanding this facility again. “We’re in the midst of a complete redesign of our production space,” says Enright. “This multiyear project includes a $40 million investment in new equipment which will allow us to maximize the quality of our products. When it’s complete, Betaseed will have the most technologically advanced sugar beet processing plant in North America.”

The value Betaseed delivers is something farmers seek now more than ever as the downward pressure of commodity pricing continues to put a strain on business. “This is more and more of a challenge for producers and they have to look very hard at their bottom lines,” explains Enright. “It’s important for us to stay at the forefront of technology to bring value to our customers who have to be ever more diligent in watching input costs.”

Commodity pricing coupled with new disease pressures are real obstacles on the farm. “It’s our job to keep our eye on the future to look at these trends and see the pressures within a certain market,” says Enright. “We have to have the foresight to have resistance bred into our materials and remain focused on the durability of our material, and our processes.”

For 45 years, sugar beet growers have trusted Betaseed Inc. to provide them with knowledge, variety performance and higher yielding seeds driven by industry-leading research and development that breeds confidence and greater returns.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Bayer Crop Science