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Bayer enters potatoes with Solynta deal

June 24, 2024 - Niels van der Boom

Chemical giant Bayer enters the world of potatoes by entering into a partnership with the Dutch company Solynta. This company has been working on the development of potatoes from seed since 2006. The deal with Bayer is intended to ensure that the first commercial varieties will soon be available on the African market.

Solynta from Wageningen has been working for a long time on the development of so-called true potato seed (TPS), in short: potatoes from seed. The company was founded in 2006 and in 2011 it presented the first 'seed potato'. Their work has been considered groundbreaking and revolutionary many times. Already in 2017, the company presented a variety with two resistances, but it did not lead to a commercial breakthrough. In 2021, they raised €21 million from investors to accelerate the development. Other breeding companies are also researching potatoes from seed.

25 grams of seed replaces 2,500 tons of seed potatoes
To commercialize and market the potatoes from seed, the company is now entering into a partnership with Bayer. Both parties announced this today (June 24). Kenya and India are the first two countries where the TPS varieties will be available. A packet of 25 grams of seed then replaces 2,500 tons of traditional seed potatoes. This greatly simplifies transport to distant and hard-to-reach destinations.

According to Frank Terhorst of Bayer, the advantage for the company is that it can support small farmers in Africa and India and thus improve food security in a country. "We expect that potatoes from seed will have a positive impact on communities." One of the biggest challenges for these growers is the availability of high-quality planting material. Potato seed does not carry diseases and can make a big difference. To commercialize the product, Bayer will use its existing network for selling vegetable seeds.

Focus on major markets
According to Solynta CEO Peter Poortinga, hybrid breeding is now a proven concept. "The collaboration with Bayer will enable us to commercially deploy true potato seed on a larger scale worldwide. India is the second largest market for potatoes globally, which is why the company is focusing on this market. In Kenya, potatoes are the second most popular food.

It remains to be seen how quickly we will see the hybrid potato from seed in Western Europe. In 2021, Solynta announced a collaboration with Averis, the breeding company of Avebe. It was stated that the first commercial varieties were expected in 2027. The hybrid breeding process has the advantage that it can bring a resistant variety to the market in five years, whereas traditional breeding takes fifteen years. Despite nearly two decades of research, the use of hybrid varieties has not yet been commercially rolled out.

New leadership
Earlier this year, Solynta announced a new identity as it shifted from a purely research-driven organization to commercial work. The collaboration with Bayer is not a big surprise. In addition to attracting Peter Poortinga (former CEO of Plukon Food Group), the company also brought Joost van Regteren on board as CCO. He previously worked as head of market development at Bayer's vegetable seed division.

Niels van der Boom

Niels van der Boom is a senior market specialist in potatoes and other soft commodities at DCA Market Intelligence.
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