African SME seed companies could benefit from a new foundation seed company which recently opened its doors in Kenya.
Newly appointed managing director of QualiBase Seed (QBS), Andy Watt, intends to fill the gap in the seed supply chain. The company wants to help small and medium-sized companies to produce and maintain quality foundation seed.
Foundation seed is produced from breeder seed which was produced at a plant breeding institute or firm.
QBS was initiated by the African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF), but is a commercial venture. It will start with maize, the staple crop grown in east and southern Africa and will move to legumes and other cereal crops later.
Advantages for small-scale farmers
QBS will use its Hybrid Maize seed to empower small to medium enterprise (SME) seed businesses who are key suppliers to small-scale and emerging farmers.
According to Watt, small-scale and emerging farmers will be the company’s focus. SME seed companies struggle with the supply of seed because it’s difficult to access the basic seed needed to multiply their certified seed for sale.
“It costs about half a million to set up a good foundation seed system. This is beyond the financial capacity of many SME seed companies – which is where QBS comes in,” said Watt.
QBS will be the first independent enterprise in Africa to play a critical role in ensuring that improved seed technology reaches the farmer.
“The returns on investment through the whole chain are significant and with the massively increasing demand for food, the need becomes more and more urgent,” said Watt.
QBS aims to improve food security and put customers in a better economic financial position.
Facilities will be set up in Kenya, Zambia and South Africa to ensure high-quality production and processing, optimise timely supply to SME seed companies and to provide technical support.
Other members on the QBS company board are chairman Mclean Sibanda from the Innovation Hub in South Africa, Tim Johnson, President of the Illinois Foundation Seed Inc, Dr Mick Mwale, Dean of the School of Agriculture at the University of Zambia, Lauren Good from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Donald Mavindidze and Caroline Muchiri of the AATF.