Northern Seed LLC

Pioneering Montana’s certified wheat seed production industry
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Drew Taylor

Since 2007, Northern Seed LLC has been fulfilling its mission of having a fundamental and meaningful impact on the future of agriculture, especially in its home state of Montana. Grounded in upholding excellence, integrity, quality, safety, customer service — and most of all a passion for research, development and the proliferation of successful farms — Northern Seed has expanded and is now one of the region’s largest certified seed dealers, seed treatment specialists and support outlets for area growers.

Today Northern Seed has multiple seed conditioning plants and production facilities for certified wheat, grasses, barley, rye, peas, legumes and other pulse crops. The company is now increasing its footprint outside of Montana, growing in the triticale forage market thanks to a major recent acquisition.

Filling a void in the market

Various acquisitions and finding ways to fill needs in the seed market have led to nearly a decade of consecutive growth for Northern Seed. “Finding something that the major multinational companies aren’t focused on because it’s not a big enough market and filling that need — that’s really our niche,” explains Ted Rogers, vice president of sales for Northern Seed. “This was the story with our growth in wheat originally and the same is true for the triticale market. This fits us well as a medium-sized company with our skill set and our ability to do research and testing in-house.”

Northern Seed has added many seed lines, but the operation started in certified wheat seed. “Even though wheat is the largest crop in the world, it’s underdeveloped as far as research goes,” explains Ron Ueland, president of Northern Seed. “The major life science companies devoted most of their research dollars to corn, soybeans and cotton.”

With a lack of attention on wheat, Ueland and his team saw an opportunity to fill the gap. “At the time, there were few folks in Montana trying to advance the efficacy of certified wheat seed — so in 2007, we purchased a seed plant in Conrad, Montana, and started focusing on developing seed conditioning of wheat, barley and other small grains for the benefit of Montana producers,” says Ueland.

Today Northern Seed has multiple seed conditioning and production plants for wheat, grass, barley, rye, peas and legumes. The company also operates WestFeeds LLC, a premium feed production business. “Our core business is Northern Seed, where we deal in certified wheat, small grains and forages,” explains Rogers. “We grow, clean, treat and certify the seed.”

Leading R&D

Northern Seed has grown to more than 92 employees, many of whom have years in related seed industries. “We now have five seed treatment plants and our portfolio includes the best products we can find for our growers, accessed from the world’s top breeding programs,” says Rogers.

Northern Seed’s resources include a research and development facility purchased from Monsanto based in Bozeman, Montana. “Our obligation to producers and our people is to source the best varieties,” says Ueland. “We represent various seed genetics from public and private partnerships, but we also do our own field trials and testing in Bozeman.”

In addition to doing research for growers for specific regionally focused trials, Northern Seed also performs contract genetics work and testing for major industry players. “Our people are a mix of farmers and experts with Ph.D.’s, and nearly all of them have backgrounds with a major, multinational ag companies,” says Ueland. “This gives us the ability to serve local needs and the research needs of larger companies.”

A new business unit in seed breeding

In October 2015, Northern Seed added a new facet to its business with the purchase of Syngenta’s market-leading triticale program. The acquisition adds five seed-breeding employees to the lineup, as well as a production site in Vernon, Texas.

The triticale market plays a vital role in solving the need for forage, especially in areas with cattle and limited water supply. Northern Seed looks to expand Syngentas’ leading varietal development program, led by Dr. David Worrall. Ongoing research trials will focus on increasing the nutrition and yields of forages from New York to California.

This investment complements Northern Seed’s existing portfolio of wheat, barley, grasses, peas and legumes. Expanding into the triticale market nationwide is allowing the company to grow its footprint in serving more domestic and international associates.

“We focus on growers and wanted to ensure triticale would continue to be available,” says Paul Morano, key accounts lead with Syngenta Cereals. “We know Northern Seed is in a good position to continue offering high-quality seed and expand the business into new areas with ongoing R&D.”

With this new entity, Northern Seed is poised for geographic gains outside of Montana. “We’re always looking at opportunities to expand, but it needs to be the right opportunity,” says Rogers.

For now, the company continues to drive the certified seed market in Montana, pushing for the adoption and greater use of seed products proven to drive higher yields. “Unfortunately, still today some growers still save seed from previous crops and it’s just not the best economic or quality-return solution,” explains Ueland. “This is why we strive to educate growers on the value of buying new, certified seed each year.”

“Things are changing and we’re happy to be part of the change,” adds Ueland. As one of the first to inspire this change in Montana, Northern Seed LLC is delivering some of the best certified seed genetics possible for producers.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
BASF
Meridian Manufacturing
Monsanto
Sygenta
West Coast Mill Supply