Plants in a Dutch greenhouse
From New Player to Top SeedText Yogesh Sharma
Seeds are small yet bountiful beings. If treated well, handfuls of these diminutive bits give birth to lush crops. Incotec India is a 100-per cent Indian subsidiary of the eponymous Netherlands-based company engaged in treating seeds well, and thereby maximising their performance. The processes involved include upgrading, priming, disinfection, film coating, encrusting and pelleting, application of actives and additives, and analytical quality testing.

RECOGNITION AND ACCREDITATION

Based in Ahmedabad, Incotec is a B2B operation, treating seeds given to it by other companies. Managing director, Dr. Manish Patel, states, “We are the only company in India recognised by Government of India’s Department of Science & Industrial Research for research in seed technology.” Incotec’s seed testing lab is one of the first in the seed sector in India to be accredited by National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL). Dr. Patel, a PhD in plant breeding and genetics, has been associated with the Incotec group since 1996.


A ‘high’ range of services

ADAPTING TO CHALLENGES

The growth story of the company, formally set up in 2004, is intricately linked with the development of seed industry of India. Gujarat was chosen as a base because the state’s farmers are progressive and had already successfully tried hybrid varieties of cotton, castor and some other seeds. In a way, Gujarat has been the
hub of seed production. Initially, the parent company tried to do business by importing seeds and reaching out to farmers directly. However, this did not click. The Dutch company had to reinvent its strategy to tap the Indian seed market. According to Dr. Patel, seed technology could not be imported directly as Indian farming is largely manual, whereas in Europe, practices are highly mechanised.

Besides, the low purchasing power of Indian farmers made Dutch technology unattractive. To make its products cost effective, Incotec India shifted to local production. The company gave up centralised production which was in place to prevent leakage of its production technology.
The company also decided to tap seed companies instead of individual farmers. But this had its own share of problems as the Indian seed market was highly unorganised. There was no unified seed association at the national level. Each region had its own seed association and the seed market was dominated by traders. Technology played a limited role.

YIELDS IMPROVE

Incotec India started organising different seed associations and ultimately formed the National Seed

The Incotec factory

Association of India (NSAI). Dr. Patel was on the board for eight years since the association’s inception in 2007. He feels the NSAI has positively influenced seed quality policy in India. The encouragement of knowledge sharing for better quality seeds and skill development is helping achieve international standards in India. Expanding upon the impact of Incotec India on the agriculture sector, Dr. Patel says Indian farmers, particularly cotton growers, have been able to improve their healthy plant stand by five per cent or more by adopting the company’s technologies. This has led to five per cent higher yield in cotton, a major revenue generating crop in India. In the seed industry, high seed quality creates a bond between the farmer and the seed producer. At the same time, as in Incotec’s case, it also gives the company a competitive edge.

Attesting the efficacy of seeds treated by Incotec India, Dr. B.L. Harikrishna, quality assurance head of the client organisation Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co. Pvt. Ltd., communicated, “We have got the expected results and the product is performing consistently in the market. The cost is competitive…and it has changed our business.”

Inside the compound

LAB SERVICES AND STUDY SUPPORT

Incotec India's seed testing laboratory has been supporting the seed industries of South East Asia since 2007. Its array of services include biological testing, germination testing, vigor indexing, physical purity testing, moisture percentage testing, hybrid genetic purity testing and homogeneity testing. The company also offers training and technical support to students of agriculture universities in their study of seed science and technology. This is obviously a step in the direction of boosting human resources in the seed enhancement sector.

AMBITIOUS NEW PROJECTS

Incotec’s association with the country is growing. In 2013, it set up the Center for Excellence in Seed Technology in Ahmedabad. Through this unit, Incotec aims to build awareness about seed quality and the need for seed enhancement in Central Asia. On September 10, 2015, Incotec inaugurated Gujarat Seed Valley with assistance from the Netherlands Business Support Office and in collaboration with the Gujarat state agriculture authorities. The event was held during the Agri Asia Exhibition and Conference in Gandhinagar, Gujarat’s capital.

Though based on the Dutch Seed Valley model, the Gujarat project has different objectives. According to Dr. Patel, “The objectives of the Dutch Seed Valley are the positioning of the seed sector as a highly innovative and economically significant international industry, while Gujarat Seed Valley aims to strengthen the state of Gujarat as a major seed hub. This hub will benefit Gujarati growers and have a positive impact on the state’s economy. It is envisioned to become the anchor of the seed industry not only in the state, but also in India. Its activities will focus on promoting quality seed production for the domestic and export markets.”
Clearly, even higher-yield seeds are being sown. Let us watch how they grow.